Reluctant relatives and lax hospital staff have led to a sharp decline in the number of bodies donated by public hospitals in the last three years
Cadaver donations have been steadily declining in the city. Ironically, the institution of medicine -- most equipped to make a difference to the numbers -- has fared most poorly. Not a single public hospital in the city has donated a cadaver in the past one year, in spite of the fact that these institutions tackle most of the accident cases in the city that result in cadavers suitable for donation. Hospital staff members claim that it is relatives of deceased patients who shy away from donating the bodies of their loved ones for the greater good.

Tricky pass: In 2011, only nine cadavers were donated from the medical
community, all from private hospitals. representation Pic/Thinkstock

All the major public hospitals -- JJ, KEM, Nair and Sion -- are registered with the Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC). Yet, they have failed to process any cadaver donations in the past year. In 2011, only nine cadavers were donated from the medical community, all from private hospitals.

ZTCC chief Dr Sujata Patwardhan said, "We conduct regular training sessions with doctors and other hospital staff members. But in spite of that, hospitals aren't active in processing cadaver donations." 

KEM and Sion hospitals processed two and one cadaver donations respectively. JJ and Nair hospitals haven't donated a single corpse since the year 2009.

ZTCC has a total of 27 city hospitals registered under it, of which only eight have facilitated cadaver donations in 2011. The number of cadaver-related organ donations has also dwindled alarmingly over the past three years.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the annual number of kidney donations reduced from 36 to 20 and finally to 18.  

Dr Bharat Shah, founder of the Narmada Kidney Foundation, said, "Cadaver transplantation requires support at every level, and the government needs to actively support the programme. But sadly, this is not the case.

Even the hospitals lack the spirit of identifying donation-worthy cadavers and completing the paper work, which takes some time. Bodies of those who succumbed to head trauma or brain haemorrhage -- mostly resulting from accidents -- are usually suitable for donation. Such cases are not uncommon in our city. There should be a dedicated transplant team in each hospital. If the hospital staff spend some time convincing the relatives of the deceased, then the numbers of donated cadavers will surely rise."

At present, more than 2,000 patients with end stage kidney ailments are on the waiting list for cadaver kidney

Liver donations have also declined severely in the last three years. In 2010, only eight livers were donated, the number dwindling to five in 2011.

Officials speak
Dr T P Lahane, dean of JJ hospital, said, "Last year we identified 13 cadavers for donation, but not a single family agreed to our request. At times, I have personally spoken to the bereaved relatives and tried to convince them, but they simply refuse. It is not right to blame doctors. Rather, it is the overall attitude of the community that needs to be changed. We haven't contributed cadavers since 2007. In 2011, we managed to identify some cadavers. We always do our best to convince the relatives."

Dr Sanjay Oak, director of major civic hospitals, said, "Our doctors and staff members are actively identifying cadavers. It's the relatives who don't agree to donate them."

A senior doctor from the civic hospital added, "Convincing relatives for cadaver donation is perceived as an added responsibility by the doctors and other hospital staff. Also, relatives assume that the hospital has some vested interest. So no one actually bothers to make an effort. Some incentives need to be offered, encouraging medicos and staffers to participate more enthusiastically in the cadaver donation process."

Dr Gustad Daver, director of PD Hinduja Hospital, said, "Cadavers suitable for donation are identified, but when it comes to motivating relatives, it becomes tricky. The ICU staff and social workers in the hospital need to be trained to sensitively explain matters to them. It is true that the public hospitals' participation in the donation has reduced. We should understand that they have many issues to handle. But they are trying."

Hospitals that donated cadavers in 2011
>> Sir H N Hospital
>> INHS Asvini
>> Fortis Hospital
>> BSES MG Hospital
>> Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital
>> Bombay Hospital
>> P D Hinduja Hospital
>> Jupiter Hospital