A speaker addresses the event at XLRI in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Pledges for eye donation in Jamshedpur are going to the grave, literally.
The steel city might have seen a jump in the number of promises, but the figures of actual donation — where relatives have informed the eye bank concerned to carry out the cornea transplant of the deceased — are down, observed members of Roshni, a voluntary outfit, during a special event held by XLRI’s General Management Programme on Wednesday.
The hour-long event, which was an attempt to highlight the benefits of philanthropic eye donations by Roshni — a body recognized by the Eye Bank Association of India — was attended by faculty members and students of the business cradle, who vowed to spread the message and hold such awareness programmes on a yearly basis.
The XLRI management had approached Roshni to conduct the awareness programme highlighting the cultural and ethical issues surrounding eye donations in India.
“There has been an increase in the number of pledges. But people often fail to keep their family members informed. Then the kin of the deceased either claim innocence or refuse to donate the cornea. This is a difficult situation, a social problem especially at a time when there is a long list of patients waiting for corneal transplants,” said P.N. Swamy, president of Roshni.
“The number of eye donations is still a concern. The reason why pledges don’t materialise into actual donations we believe is due to social stigma. People need to become more aware and shrug it off,” said Parminder Singh, a senior member associated with the Jamshedpur chapter of Roshni.
Quoting some figures available with Roshni, which works in tandem with the Jamshedpur Eye Hospital, Singh said the number of cornea donations had actually gone down over the years.
There were five cornea donations in 2009, six in 2010 and five in 2011. In 2012, there have been only two donations so far, the last one in March. Roshni so far has conducted close to 138 cornea transplants in the city since 1994, he said, adding it was not a happy figure.
He further said there were 34 patients waiting for corneal transplant at present, besides some children who would need donations from people between the age group of 25 to 30 years.
The wait was long, he claimed, but people of Jamshedpur were still apprehensive in coming forward and donating the corneas of their loved ones. Sometimes, a kin performed the last rites quite oblivious to the fact that the deceased had pledged his eyes. Some even chased away doctors who had gone to collect the eyes of a deceased.
Swamy also spoke about myths associated with eye donations.
“Often religion plays an important role in donation. Sometimes the kin also do not know whom to get in touch with (the nearest eye bank) to carry out the pledge,” he said.
Clifford D’Mello, a General Management Programme student of XLRI, aptly summed up the event by vowing to make the programme into an annual affair and spread the word on campus.