Youngsters steer India’s organ donation drive

Originally published by the Times of India.

The Indian youth’s sense of altruism and love for social action are emerging as the mainstay of the country’s organ donation and transplant programme. Not only do youth in the 18 to 30 age group make up for 60% of the people who pledge to donate organs (see box), almost 80% of the deceased donors are from the 18 to 40 age bracket .

Dr Rahul Pandit, an intensivist with Fortis Hospital, illustrates the point with the example of Sydney-based Deeyan Udani (7) who suffered brain death during a visit to India in 2016. “The child had heard of organ donation in school and expressed his desire to become a donor. His wish must have played a role in convincing his parents,” the doctor said.

Experts say the consent-seeking process is easier if the family involved has a young person. Consider the case of second-year engineering student Vaibhav Sanghvi from D J Sanghavi College in Juhu, who consented to donating his mother’s organs after she was declared brain dead in 2016, a month after his Class X results. “My brother and I had heard about organ donation and felt it would be the best thing. We were saving lives,” he said.

Youngsters are proactive and willing to adopt new ideas, said Dr Sunil Shroff of NGO Mohan Foundation that has been carrying out awareness drives in schools and colleges. “Despite the stigma, we see the youth is willing to donate,” he said.

Dr Vasanthi Ramesh, director of the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), concurs: “Wherever the youth are involved, they have an exponential effect. When a youngster convinces his family, everyone listens.” Last year, Mohan Foundation launched an ‘Angels of Change’ programme to spread the message among the youth. “Teaching just 15 youngsters means the message reaches up to 60 people in a short time,” said Dr Hemal Kanvinde from Mohan Foundation, Chennai.

Governmental organisations such as Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (ROTTO), State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation and Zonal Transplant Coordination Centres hold awareness drives focusing on youth. ROTTO (western region) director Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala said, “When we talk to young people, they are open to the idea. They are willing pledge.” Dr Ram Narian, CEO of Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Andheri, said, “The Indian social structure has traditionally been such that whatever elders say is followed. But this is changing as youth are emerging as influencers. They are logical and vocal. For issues needing heightened awareness, youth play a stellar role.”