Is India’s Organ Transplant Act Obsolete?

Organ Transplant Act in India needs to be rectified, feel Indian doctors. This is necessary to perform face transplant surgery. Doctors say that there is no technical problems for face transplantation, only the law must be clearer about the whole issue. The present transplant laws allow cadaveric transplantation (organ retrieval from a brain dead but beating heart donor). However, doctors feel the law have a long way to go.

The Transplantation of Human Organs Bill, 1994 redefines death to include the concept of brain stem death making retrieval of organs possible after proper consent. The problem lies in the fact that the Act could form the basis for withdrawing support to brain dead donor of facial transplants. Although, this has not been stated explicitly. As euthanasia (mercy killing) is illegal in India, such a brain dead patient would still have to be nursed till he or she is alive. This in itself will be prohibitive due to the heavy costs involved.

As for the other side of the issue, doctors fear problems like religious backlash. They suspect that families of such a brain dead patient would consent for removal of the whole or part of face as the same would result in a horrendous disfigurement.

Also, the national database is necessary for that purpose. “The most important thing for such an operation is a national database of donors, which is lacking in India,” says Dr Taneja of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Also the doctors feel that they need a panel of experts will have to sit and frame guidelines to make laws water-tight.

Doctors feel that face transplantation is necessary in India. There are thousands of burns patients in India who are living with horrendous facial disfigurements. Then there are victims of terrorism where they have suffered from severe gunshot or explosive injuries to their faces. These patients will be ideal candidates and could stand to benefit from the face transplant,” says Dr. Dr Sunil Choudhary, Plastic Surgeon, Max Healthcare.



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