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5 Critical Questions About Organ Donation, Answered

Organ Donation is the gift of an organ to a person with end-stage organ disease and who needs a transplant.  The person who donates their organ is called an organ donor, while the person who receives the same is the recipient. In most cases, organ donation is critical in saving the recipient's life as their organs have failed or become damaged due to disease or injuries.


Over the past few years, organ donation has played a very valuable role in advancing modern medicine and saving the lives of countless people. However, today the need for organ donation, especially in India, is very high as in 2017, only 0.9 per cent of people who died were organ donors. The country requires close to two lakh kidneys, 50,000 hearts and 50,00 livers to help receipts who await these life-saving organs.

What organs and tissues in the human body can be transplanted?

Many human organs and tissues can be transplanted from the donor to the recipient. Some of them include the liver, kidney, pancreas, heart, lung, intestine, corneabone marrow, and vascularized composite allografts, including skin, uterus, bone, muscles, nerves and connective tissues.

Who can donate an organ? What are the criteria for organ donation?

Any person on the planet can choose to be an organ donor after they die; there is no age limit for this decision. However, the final decision of whether the body parts can be used for organ donation lies in the hospital, as they need to decide if the organs are suitable for donation. In general, there are three pathways to organ donation, which include:

Read More: How to donate organs in India

There are three pathways to organ donation:


1. Brain death: In this case, the blood supply to the brain stem which controls vital centres of the body is lost due to infarction/bleeding/trauma. Due to this, the person would have lost the capacity to breathe or stay conscious. Brain death is different from a coma; in a coma, the brain might be injured, but the brain is possibly recovering or healing itself. However, in cases of brain death, there is no possibility of recovery and brain function cannot be recovered. In such cases, they are declared brain dead and if their family wishes, their organs can be donated to those in need.

2. Circulatory death: In such a case, there is a loss of function in circulation after a heart attack, post which a person cannot be resuscitated. It can also occur in cases where there is a planned withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from a patient within the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department, as there is no hope for a cure.

In the case of circulatory death, the patient is closely monitored, and donation occurs only once the circulation is ceased irrevocably. Timeframes are very short in case of circulatory death as organs without oxygenated blood cannot survive outside the body for an extended period.
3. Living donation: While the above two types of donations, only after a person has passed away living donation can occur when the person is alive. They can choose to donate a kidney, a small section of their liver, or discarded bone from a hip or knee replacement to a family member or someone in need.

Can a person who does not have a family register as an organ donor?

This is possible and even encouraged. If a person does not have family members, they can inform their closest friends or colleagues of their decision to pledge their organs after death. They can sign up for organ donation with various groups as well.

Who cannot donate their organs?

Although this is a rare scenario, some people cannot donate their organs. Those who suffer from specific medical conditions like cancer, HIV, infection (sepsis, for example), or Intravenous (IV) drugs may be unable to donate their organs. However, it is still important to register as a donor as a detailed assessment is carried out at the time of death to assess if an organ is suitable for a transplant. 

Why should I become an organ donor?

In India, nearly five lakh people need an organ transplant every year. If they do not receive these organs, they will die and spend a lot of time on treatments that are just keeping them on the brink of life.


People who need an organ transplant are usually very sick or dying because one or more of their organs is failing. They range from children to older adults. If you decide to donate your organs, you can positively impact the lives of these people who might have been waiting for a transplant for many years.



Dr Sandeep Patil

Chief Intensivist

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