BENGALURU: A big obstacle to heart transplants is acceptance by the family that their relative is brain-dead, says Dr Devi Shetty, well-known cardiac surgeon.
Brain death is irreversible, but with the patient on a ventilator, the heart continues to beat, and it can be transplanted.
Speaking to Express about the challenges in heart transplantation, Dr Shetty, chairman of Narayana Health, said, “Friends and relatives get suspicious if the hospital authorities start talking about brain death and heart donation. Racketeering in kidneys has brought disrepute to the cause of organ donation.”
To ensure that the needy are benefited by organ donations, the Zonal Coordination Committee of Karnataka for Transplantation (ZCCK) steps in and talks to the relatives of terminal patients. The agency monitors all cadaver transplants.
“Earlier, we did not have any institutional mechanism to oversee transplantation of a heart,” Dr Shetty noted.
The first heart transplant at Narayana Hrudalaya in Bengaluru was conducted in 2008.
A report on January 4 incorrectly described a heart transplant at another hospital as Bengaluru’s first.
Tamil Nadu sees more heart transplants as all the government agencies of that state are very helpful. The NGOs in Tamil Nadu educate people about heart donation if somebody is brain dead. There is a lack of donor hearts in the north and eastern parts of India. Awareness about donation of hearts is important and must reach all parts of the country, Dr Shetty stressed.
He suggested that state governments should formulate regulations to enable legal organ transplants and also ensure effective monitoring mechanisms.
One dead person can touch many lives as the eyes, heart, lung, liver and kidneys can be harvested.
Heart transplants cost about `3 lakh. “The patient has to spend about `5,000 per month for a lifetime on immuno-suppressant drugs. In India, patients live up to 10 years with a new heart,” says Dr Shetty.
What the Doctor Prescribes
■ Increase awareness about brain death
■ Make organ transplants legal
■ Increase coordination between state governments and other institutions for smooth transfer of hearts