Every year, August 13 is celebrated as World Organ Donation day for multiple reasons - to encourage more people to take up organ donation, to celebrate the people who regained their lives through organ transplant, and to make people aware of the health benefits, and to assure them of the safety of the entire procedure.
But, since the last one and half years, the world has been grappling with the pandemic spread of COVID-19. Like everything else, the virus has pretty much halted the organ donation procedure across the world. India sees the most number of organ donations through the families of victims of accidents or brain death - with the scare of COVID-19 around, most deaths reported in the last year have been due to the virus. And, therefore, recipients are scared of contracting the virus through the organs.
According to a report published by The Times of India, the organ donation rate has gone drastically down due to the lack of awareness among the public about the procedure, mistrust on the medical system and lack of proper infrastructure. However, another reason that mostly haunts the recipients and makes them refrain from applying for organ donation is the fact that medical charges of COVID-19 are huge and it has affected ailing patients financially.
According to a study conducted by Global Alliance for Eye Banking (GAEB), there has been no substantial evidence of COVID-19 being transferred through blood transfusion and tissue transplant. However, it is seen that COVID-19 has a higher stimulus in case of kidneys where it has been observed to replicate in almost 30 percent of the patients. Because of this, The Indian Society of Organ Transplant (ISOT) has suggested that kidney transplantation from living donors is best avoided till the spread of COVID-19 comes under control. However, the organisation has further given a go-ahead on procedures concerning living donor liver transplantation for acute life-threatening patients.
Keeping the coronavirus situation in mind, The National Organ And Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) has rolled out several guidelines to be followed in case of transplantation - the procedure is to be done only in emergency cases. The operation theaters employed in transplantation are to be solely used for that purpose. There should be ample availability of PPE kits, masks and disinfectants that are to be reserved for patients. And most importantly, the transplant is to be initiated only after proper counselling is done of both donor and the recipient and they are educated on the risks of contracting the virus. The organisation also stated that transplants are best avoided in this situation.