Legal and Ethical Aspects of Organ Donation and Transplantation
Indian journal of urology : IJU : journal of the Urological Society of India 2009 Jul; 25(3): 348-55
The legislation called the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THO) was passed in India in 1994 to streamline organ donation and transplantation activities. Broadly, the act accepted brain death as a form of death and made the sale of organs a punishable offence. With the acceptance of brain death, it became possible to not only undertake kidney transplantations but also start other solid organ transplants like liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas. Despite the THO legislation, organ commerce and kidney scandals are regularly reported in the Indian media. In most instances, the implementation of the law has been flawed and more often than once its provisions have been abused. Parallel to the living related and unrelated donation program, the deceased donation program has slowly evolved in a few states. In approximately one-third of all liver transplants, the organs have come from the deceased donor program as have all the hearts and pancreas transplants. In these states, a few hospitals along with committed NGOs have kept the momentum of the deceased donor program. The MOHAN Foundation (NGO based in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh) has facilitated 400 of the 1,300 deceased organ transplants performed in the country over the last 14 years. To overcome organ shortage, developed countries are re-looking at the ethics of unrelated programs and there seems to be a move towards making this an acceptable legal alternative. The supply of deceased donors in these countries has peaked and there has been no further increase over the last few years. India is currently having a deceased donation rate of 0.05 to 0.08 per million population. We need to find a solution on how we can utilize the potentially large pool of trauma-related brain deaths for organ donation. This year in the state of Tamil Nadu, the Government has passed seven special orders. These orders are expected to streamline the activity of deceased donors and help increase their numbers. Recently, on July 30, 2008, the Government brought in a few new amendments as a Gazette with the purpose of putting a stop to organ commerce. The ethics of commerce in organ donation and transplant tourism has been widely criticized by international bodies. The legal and ethical principles that we follow universally with organ donation and transplantation are also important for the future as these may be used to resolve our conflicts related to emerging sciences such as cloning, tissue engineering, and stem cells.