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Defunct eye bank shocks donor kin

Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), the biggest state-run hospital, has failed to conserve the donated eyes of one of its retired doctors.

When relatives of Shruti Lall Mandal, former head of the PMCHs plastic surgery department, contacted the hospital on Sunday after his death with a request to preserve his body and eyes according to his last wishes, they were shocked.

Though the hospital administration agreed to preserve Mandals body, it expressed inability to do the same with his eyes because the eye bank was not functioning. Sources said the PMCH eye bank opened in 1986 but it has been non-operational since inception.

Arvind Kumar, the doctors son and former deputy director of social welfare department, told The Telegraph: My father had written to the state government in 2006, asking for preservation of his body and eyes after death. Thereafter, the state issued a letter to then PMCH principal and superintendent apart from then Patna district magistrate to ensure the same. When my father passed away around 2.30pm, we immediately contacted the PMCH. On enquiring about how to preserve his body and eyes, I was shocked to learn about their inability to preserve the eyes because the bank was not functioning. However, we handed over my fathers body to the anatomy department for preservation.

Arvind added: We would be happy if the state government, after our experience, takes necessary steps to start eye banks in the state.

PMCH superintendent Lakhendra Prasad said: What can we do when our eye bank is defunct? We could not preserve Mandals eyes in these conditions.

On plans to start an eye bank at PMCH, Prasad said: Starting the eye bank is on the governments priority list but Rajendra Nagar Hospital and Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences have got preference over PMCH.

A senior doctor of the PMCHs eye department said it would take PMCH a lot of time to develop the infrastructure for running an eye bank. A special refrigerator is required for preserving eyes taken from some cadaver. A special technique is involved, which requires some special instruments. All this is not available at PMCH. The administration has not started purchasing the necessary equipment. So it would take a lot of time, he said.

Ophthalmologist S.K. Singh, also the IMA vice-president, said: The state should start eye banks in the state as soon as possible. Corneal blindness in children and young people can be corrected through eye transplant.