Organ donation ordeal at govt hospital leaves grieving family bitter

The deceased donor’s relatives claim they went through a five-and-half-hour ordeal at Thane Civil Hospital before they were allowed to take the body home

When a 44-year-old Mulund resident was declared brain dead at a city hospital on Saturday, his family was devastated, but refused to let his death be in vain. They decided his organs would be donated to help others who were ailing and needed a new lease of life.

The deceased donor, Vijay Savla
The deceased donor, Vijay Savla

Little did they know, that their well-meaning decision would be repaid with a harrowing ordeal that lasted five and a half hours, before medical and police officers would complete the procedure and allow them to take their own loved one’s body home.

The deceased donor, Vijay Savla, was undergoing treatment for brain haemorrhage at Jupiter Hospital in Thane, where he was declared brain dead. Family members gave their consent to doctors to harvest his organs, including his liver, kidney, eyes and skin and his life support was removed, leading to his passing.

A 53-year-old woman from Nasik received the liver, while a 57-year-old man received a kidney for transplant. An official from Jupiter Hospital said the eyes were donated to a Thane eye bank, while the skin was sent to the skin bank at the National Burns Centre at Airoli.

Distressed as they were, it was the next day that Savla’s relatives would truly be tested, as they visited Thane Civil Hospital to complete the organ donation procedure and paperwork with the mandatory post-mortem and NOC from the police.

A relative, Arun Sridharan, said, “He was first admitted in Ashirwad Hospital in Mulund, from where he had to be shifted to Jupiter Hospital. The cause of death was already recorded as brain haemorrhage, but we were informed that a post-mortem had to be conducted to verify that only the organs we had given consent for were removed.

However, the doctor conducting the post-mortem, and police officials, were completely ignorant about the paperwork that follows a cadaver donation.”

Unaware medical staff
“Dr Pragnya, who was on duty, repeatedly asked us why we wanted a post-mortem to be conducted when we knew the cause of death. Though Jupiter Hospital’s coordinator explained the entire process to her, she took three hours just to fill out a simple form,” he added. He alleged that following the autopsy, the staff were not even prepared with enough sutures to sew up the body, and they had to wait another hour for arrangements to be made.

Unhelpful police
Sridharan added that police officials were equally unaware of the procedure, and took a long time to provide an NOC following the panchnama. “We arrived at 12 pm on Sunday for the procedure, but were only able to leave at 5.30 pm.

Without informing us beforehand, they suddenly refused to hand over the body to, us saying only immediate relatives such as parents could claim the body.

Vijay’s father, who suffers from severe asthma among other health complications, had to come all the way to Thane while he was grieving for his son. What’s even more inhuman is that despite this, the doctor made him wait two hours before the body was handed over,” said Sridharan.

The frustrated relatives pointed out that, ironically, an organ donation poster had been put up at the civic hospital’s entrance. “How can the hospital and police staff be so ignorant about the paperwork and procedure involved with a cadaver donation? We tried to help a noble cause, but only suffered after that,” they rued.

The other side
Dr Ragunath Rathod, additional civil surgeon at Thane Civil hospital said, “That medical officer is new at the job and a post- mortem for a cadaver donor is a complicated procedure. She kept consulting her seniors to get the entire procedure right and unlike a routine post-mortem, this tends to take longer.

Also, a medical officer’s shift is very heavy, with five to six autopsies to conduct each day, and she only took longer to avoid any errors from her side. People tend to become aggressive in government hospitals, but they need to understand we are constantly overworked.”

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