Organ donation - myths and facts!
Dr. S Sudhindran, MS, FRCS (Eng) (Glas) (Gen)

Myth: Organ transplantation is still in the experimental
phase of surgery and is possible only in the highly developed
western countries.
Fact: Almost every organ, except the brain can now be
transplanted with very high success rates. There are many
centres in India and Kerala which have successfully performed
most transplant operations.
Myth: Organ donation is not necessary in India.
Fact: Unofficial statistics from India indicate that there
are 1000 deaths everyday due to failure of an organ such as
liver, heart, lung or kidney. Of the 8 million deaths in India
every year, at least 20,000 are believed to be potential organ
donors; however less than 150 actually become donors! The
remaining 19,850 donors are lost. At an average of 5 organs
per donor that could have been transplanted, 1 million organs
are needlessly burnt or buried.
Myth: Apart from being an altruistic act, me or my family
have nothing to gain from organ donation.
Fact: That, as a matter of fact, is not true. From the existing
data, the glaring reality remains that during our life span, each
one of us has more chance of requiring an organ transplant
than being an organ donor!
Myth: Only eyes can be donated after death
Fact: Tissues like eyes, skin, cartilage and bone which do not
require blood supply can be donated after death.
Other organs such as liver, heart, kidney and lungs can also be
donated but after “brain death”.
Myth: Brain death is not easy to recognise
Fact: Brain death is indicated if eight criteria are fulfilled,
notable ones being:
They cannot breathe without assistance of a ventilator. Within
minutes of stopping the ventilator, heart will stop beating.
They have no response to pain
Their pupils do not react to light
Basic brain reflexes do not work
Myth: Brain death means coma.
Fact: Patients in coma are therefore as alive as you and me
and should not be considered for organ donation whatsoever.
On the other hand brain death means death


Myth: I have heard of stories where people who have been
declared brain dead have later come back to life.
There has never been any case, anywhere in the world.
Myth: Stopping the ventilator on my loved one who is brain
dead is killing.
Fact: No, absolutely not. Once someone is declared brain
dead, that person is dead.
Myth: My religion discourages organ donation.
Fact: There are 22 major religions in the world, none of which
discourage organ donation.
Myth: If I register as a donor it will affect the quality of
medical care that I receive at the hospital.
Fact: No, most certainly not. Every effort will be made to
save your life. Organ donation will be considered only after
brain death.
Myth: The hospital can make me brain dead and sell my
Fact: Certification of brain death requires 2 series of 8 tests
by 4 independent doctors, one of whom has no attachment to
the hospital whatsoever and chosen from the panel of doctors
recruited by the government.
Myth: I am rich. I suffer from an organ failure I can legally
buy organs from someone else.
Fact: Any commercial dealings of organs (buying, selling or
any form of coercion to donate organs) are illegal all over
the world.
Myth: there are no organisations to which I can register as an
organ donor or recipient.
Fact: In Kerala, there is an organisation called SORT (Society
for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation), which is voluntary,
non-profitable and registered with the Government.
Organ donation is not about death, but rather life. In
a perfect India, every patient, in need of an organ should
receive one. This dream can become a reality only if every one
of us becomes an organ donor. If you value life, if you value
others lives, organ donation is a moral and social obligation.
It does not matter who you are, how rich or poor you are, or
which religion you belong to, you have the power to give the
greatest gift in the world; LIFE, PASS IT ON.