India's Tamil Nadu to hold state funerals for organ donors

More than 200,000 Indians require transplants every year

A poster of the late south Indian film star Puneeth Rajkumar in Bangalore. Several fans pledged to give up their eyes after the actor's untimely death brought his post-mortem organ donation into focus. AFP
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Authorities in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu will hold state funerals for organ donors to honour them and encourage people to pledge their organs for donations to help patients awaiting life-saving medical procedures.

A state funeral is a public ceremony held by the government following strict protocols that include pomp, religious traditions or military procession and even gun salutes, usually reserved for high-profile officials or prominent personalities.

But Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on the weekend announced that his government will honour the sacrifices made by those declared "brain dead" and their family members who decide to donate organs to save other lives.

"Tamil Nadu is leading the country in organ donation and this has only been made achievable because of the selfless sacrifices of families who come forward to donate their organs in the tragic situation of brain-dead family members," Mr Stalin said on X, formerly Twitter.

“In order to honour the sacrifice of those who donated their organs and saved many lives, the funerals of organ donors before death will now be conducted with state honour!”

More than 200,000 Indians require organ transplants every year but not even one in every 10 manages to get it.

India, with its 1.4 billion population, has a 0.65 per million population Organ Donation Rate, according to the government.

The reasons vary from lack of family consent, superstitions and misconceptions, lack of brain death declaration and organ transplant and retrieval centres.

The process of organ retrieval, storage and transplantation is governed under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act and Tissues Act, 1994.

Although it has been adopted by many states, some aspects are vague, leading to confusion, and some states have therefore evolved their own methods for its implementation.

The demand-supply divide also enables unlawful operations to thrive.

There are several organ donation rackets where poor people are forced to donate organs, especially kidneys, in return for money, as desperate patients are unable to wait for a cadaver or altruistic donor.

But Tamil Nadu has been pioneering in organ donations and is the first state that has an authority for organ transplantations that was set up in 2008.

The state has so far harvested and transplanted more than 9,000 organs including 786 hearts, 801 lungs, 1,566 livers, 3,047 kidneys, 37 pancreas, six small bowels, two stomachs and four hands.

Nearly 4,000 minor organs and tissues have been transplanted, according to official data.

The state launched an automated web-cum-mobile app called Vidiyal in 2021 for registration of patients and allocation of organs and there are 13 organ transplant units in government medical colleges in the state.

Updated: September 25, 2023, 9:56 AM