The advent of the concept of organ transplantation came as an important breakthrough in the medical field, in the 20th century. The idea behind organ donation and transplant is simple. A healthy organ (such as heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and intestines) or a tissue (such as bones and bone marrow, veins, cornea, heart valves, tendons, and skin) is removed from the body of the donor, living or dead, and is transplanted in that of the recipient. Such a surgery imparts a second chance to the recipient to lead a healthy life.
People may have many doubts regarding organ donation. While a person may wish to donate organs, his/her religious beliefs or family may contradict the same. However, the fact is that a selfless action like this, though controversial, can tilt the balance of life and death in favour of a person in need. Therefore, it is very essential to know and understand the pros and cons of donating organs, before one opts to do so.
Advantages of Organ Donation
People have many fallacies regarding organ donation, which stem due to lack of awareness. Organ donation has numerous benefits, and some of them are very obvious.
One has a social responsibility to do something for the betterment of the society in return of what he/she receives. Donating organs to the people in need and enabling them to survive is a good way by which one can serve the society. This way, one also helps humanity to a great extent. Moreover, the act of donating organs also ensures that a part of the donor stays alive (in someone else's body) even after his/her death.
Helps the Families of the Deceased to Overcome Grief
When a loved one dies, the grief-struck family attempts to do everything that can help them overcome their sorrow. Some of them might resort to making charity on behalf of the deceased, while some others may decide unanimously, to donate the organs of the deceased and to gift a healthy and a productive life to a person in need.
Though it doesn't take away the pain of the loss, the very thought that somebody is able to live a comfortable life with the help of the heart or the eyes of one's loved one, is very satisfying.
Imparts a New Hope to Live a Fruitful Life
Organ donation gives a new ray of hope to the recipients. The recipients are patients suffering from dysfunctional or failed organs/tissues. A sheer gesture of donating one's healthy organs to such patients would give them a chance to live a healthy life for the second time. While some might be able to see after an eye transplant, some others might actually be able to live after, say a heart transplant
Improves the Quality of Life Transplanting
healthy organs from the body of one person to that of the other also helps to a great extent to improve and enhance the quality of life of the recipient. This can be best witnessed in case of patients who suffer from kidney disturbance or failure. In order to live, they have to depend completely on kidney dialysis
, and external artificial replacement for the function performed by the kidneys. The process is not only time-consuming and repetitive, but is also extremely expensive.
A kidney transplant
means a completely new and a healthy kidney in the patient's body. This enables the patient to return to his/her normal routine, wherein he/she does not have to depend on artificial treatments in order to be alive.
Organ donation helps to reduce the hospital expenses of the recipient. The transplant may seem expensive when one actually gets it done, but in the long run, it saves a lot of money that would have otherwise been spent on treatments such as kidney dialysis, which demand heavy expenses from time to time. This is because the patient would receive a healthy organ from the donor, which will then perform its functions on its own.
Provides Material for Medical Research
Some people opt to donate their organs, and sometimes their entire bodies to hospitals, universities, and other medical research facilities. The medical scientists perform experiments on these donated organs, tissues, and bodies, in order to find cures and treatments for various complex medical conditions
such as cancer
, etc. The newly found treatments further aid the medical practitioners in saving human lives.
Today, organ donation and organ transplantation has become routine in the field of medical sciences. The success rate of such surgeries is high. The number of donors is also on an increase year by year, with the awareness regarding organ donation spread among more and more people.
Disadvantages of Organ Donation
Organ donation and organ transplantation have always stirred a controversy, right since the beginning. People, who did not believe in the possibility of organ transplantation, criticised its earliest pioneers, primarily on ethical grounds. The argument was against the removal of vital organs and tissues from one human body and transplanting them into the other. Nevertheless, there were also many, who were in favour of the same because it saved lives. However, organ donation does have some disadvantages, although most of them result from popular misconceptions.
Complications During and After Surgery
There are certain possibilities of complications arising during and after the surgery that is performed for extracting the organs from the body of a living donor. Some of these complications might include excessive bleeding, clotting of blood
, and/or infection on the site on which the surgery is conducted. While the doctors might be able to control most of these complications, there have also been some extremely rare instances, wherein the complications have proved to be fatal for the donor.
Hampers the Overall Health in the Long Run
Depending on the organ a live donor donates, he/she might face certain adverse effects due to its absence, in the long run. For instance, if one of the kidneys is donated, it might cause hypertension or kidney failure in the future. Similarly, a lung donor may suffer from various respiratory disorders
, and a liver donor may face various gastrointestinal problems
or liver failure
Psychological Effects on the Donor's Family
Organ donation might have adverse psychological effects on the family of the donor. In case of a deceased donor, the very thought of burying/cremating him/her without the vital organs can be extremely disturbing and painful. It might further add to the family's grief. On the other hand, if the donor is still alive, the idea that he/she is living without one of the vital organs can be very unpleasant and upsetting for the family.
Sometimes, a decision to become a live organ donor might create a lot of financial problems for an individual. In case of a deceased donor, the family and relatives do not have to bear the expenses of procedure of organ donation. But, if the donor is alive, he/she has to bear the medical expenses and the cost of the surgery.
Further, if the donor is a working professional, he/she also has to bear the loss of salary for the time taken off work. Moreover, in case of post-surgical health complications, the donor might also lose the job as his/her productivity might be hampered.
No Right to Choose the Recipient
The organ donor has no right to choose the person who would get his/her organs. This is often considered as one of the cons of organ donation by some. This is because the recipient might belong to a different religious faith, may have a different political ideology or may be completely opposite of what the donor is.
In such cases, the donor and his/her family might not feel very happy with the donation they have made. However, one has to agree to the fact that life is equally precious for every individual, and the recipient will always be grateful to the donor for the organ that he/she has received.
Unethical Trade of Human Vital Organs
One of the most important negative impacts of organ donation is the illegal and unethical buying and selling of organs in the black market, which is spread worldwide, and it involves an enormous amount of money. Numerous human organ trade rackets have been busted by various legal authorities till date, and still quite a number of them thrive worldwide.
The great imbalance in the ratio of available organs in comparison to the number of needy patients is a factor responsible for such a trade. It is indeed a pity that due to the big money that is involved in the trade, many individuals such as prison inmates and children (who are often kidnapped for organ trade) are forced to donate their vital organs. Buying and selling of organs is illegal in many countries of the world.
In situations where the vital organs are donated, it is very important that the recipient's body accepts the organ that has been transplanted. In other words, the donor's and the recipient's bodies need to be compatible with each other for an organ transplant to be successful. In cases where the compatibility does not occur, the recipient's body rejects the organ, which then has to be removed. Therefore, finding a suitable donor is quite a task.
The decision to gift the boon of life rests in our hands. If our time has come, perhaps we can share a part of our body with another person, who still has many more miles to go. A thorough knowledge of organ donation, and the pros and cons that accompany it, can help us and our family make an informed decision.