New Delhi: There is a "huge gap" in the demand and supply of human organs and tissues for transplant in the country and the myths prevalent in this domain must be busted to ensure that lives are saved by the timely availability of vital body parts, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said.
He was speaking during a webinar where the country's largest paramilitary force -- the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) -- handed over a total of 79,572 organ donation pledges undertaken by its personnel to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
The country is observing the 11th Indian organ donation day on Friday.
Vardhan urged people to come together for this noble cause, saying it was time for everyone to "bust the myths" and realise that the act of donating organs is not against "religion or religious customs".
"There cannot be a bigger godly work than organ donation," Vardhan said.
Guleria said the AIIMS was working to "very soon" start a lung transplant programme even as it has facilities available for transplantation of heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, cornea, heart valve and bones.
The AIIMS chief said the premier medical institute at present has organ banks for eyes, heart valves, bones and "in future a skin bank will also be operational".
"I am sure a time will come when there is no shortage (of donated organs) and people will not die while waiting for an organ," he said.
The Union minister said India was moving fast in this domain over the last few years and occupies the third position in the world but still many people in the country die due to unavailability of organs.
Citing data, he said while in Spain there were 48 organ transplants per 1 million population, in India the figure was less than one.
Guleria also gave some details and statistics.
"While the law for organ donation and transplantation was enacted way back in 1994, even today there is a huge gap in the demand and supply of human organs and tissues which is primarily because of lack of awareness and acceptance of brain death in our society," the senior pulmonologist said.
He said every year one lakh cornea are required but only 50,000 are collected.
"We need 1.7 lakh kidneys each year but only 7,000-8,000 are transplanted; about 25,000 livers are required every year in the country but only 1,500-1,700 are transplanted.
"So, there is a huge gap... This really shows that there is a huge need for all of us to work together to fulfil this gap so that those who need organs are able to get them and can live a good quality life," the AIIMS Director said.
Stressing that "many people die while waiting for an organ", he said there are certain "myths" that exist in our society in the context to organ donation.
Guleria said some people believe that if one donates the heart after death, they will not attain salvation or that the body will get disfigured. He further said another prevalent myth is that old people cannot donate organs or that a person may be born in the next life without the organ they donated after death in this life.
"We are duty bound to spread awareness so that the supply (of donated organs) not only increases but people understand how noble it is to donate organs," Guleria said.
He praised the CRPF for undertaking an "extraordinary effort" of bringing in thousands of organ donation pledges in a very short span of time.
Vardhan added that people who wish to donate their organs should involve their families in their decision so that the organ reaches the needy in time.
Praising the CRPF, he said their work "inspires the country" and was a unique event where almost 80,000 organ donation pledges have come in one go.
During the event, CRPF Director General A P Maheshwari said his force was "determined" to take this noble cause and campaign forward and will work with the government to increase awareness about organ donation.
The about 3.25 lakh personnel-strong CRPF is the country's largest paramilitary force and is designated as the lead internal security force.