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Organ glare on Bengal

Patients suffering from organ failure in Bengal are being denied a lifeline because of the state government’s failure to implement a cadaver organ transplant programme notified six years ago.

In Tamil Nadu, where the cadaver organ transplant programme started in October 2008, more than 1,200 cadaver organs have been transplanted at both state-run and private hospitals.

There have only been two cases of cadaver organ transplant in Bengal — both in Calcutta — in the absence of such a programme.

“I was surprised to know that there is hardly any cadaver transplant in Bengal. There are so many cases in Tamil Nadu. The government here has to take the responsibility,” said professor J.A.C. Buckels, a surgeon at the liver unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

“What is happening in Bengal is a trade in kidney transplant, which is unethical,” Buckels said while stressing the need for starting a cadaver donor programme in Bengal, at an event at Tata Medical Center in New Town on Thursday.

According to Buckels, the UK sees around 750 cadaver liver transplants on an average in a year.

In cadaver transplant, organs are harvested from a patient declared brain dead by a team of doctors authorised by the government. Organs of such a person are kept viable by ventilators or other mechanical support till they are harvested for transplant.

After a patient is declared brain dead, the liver can be reused within 15 hours and the kidneys, 24 hours.

In the absence of cadaver organ transplant in the state, patients in need of organs have to depend on live donor transplant, which is fraught with risks.

“One of every 100 donors die after surgery,” said Buckels. Also, the donor’s health gets affected after surgery and the transplant cost shoots up because of the series of tests a donor has to go through.

“We need a good organ transplant system. Bengal has a good record of blood donation and body donation but cadaver donation hasn’t picked up yet,” said Mammen Chandy, director, Tata Medical Center. “There is a need for a sustained campaign.”

State health department officials said the government would launch a full-fledged cadaver organ transplant programme in January.

“We have finalised a panel of doctors and experts who’ll declare a patient brain dead. Doctors of private and government hospitals will be trained soon and the programme will be launched in January 2014,” said Sushanta Banerjee, the state’s director of medical education.