Pandemic brings cadaver organ donations to a halt in Karnataka

‘Many families unwilling to allow virus test on the cadaver’

Although nearly 4,000 patients are waiting for various organ transplants in Karnataka, there have been hardly five cadaveric donations during the pandemic. This includes one skin donation.

Jeevasarthakathe, the State’s nodal agency that facilitates cadaver organ donations, has recorded only four donations since April, retrieving 22 organs, while the State’s only skin bank in Victoria Hospital has got just one donation during these months.

During the corresponding period last year, while 105 cadaveric donations were facilitated through Jeevasarthakathe (wherein 511 organs were retrieved) the skin bank had seen 40 donations. This has created a huge demand-supply gap in organ transplantation in the State.

Jeevasarthakathe convener Kishore Phadke, who attributed this to the fear of COVID-19, said many families were unwilling to allow a virus test to be conducted on the cadaver. “This is not a phenomena unique to Karnataka as organ donations have decreased globally,” he said.

Changed situation

With the entire focus on COVID-19, transplants had come to a standstill in several hospitals. However, the scenario has changed now and most hospitals have restarted organ transplants.

While Manipal Hospitals’ Old Airport Road branch has conducted 11 live renal transplants and one cadaver renal transplant during the past few months, Aster CMI and Aster RV hospitals have conducted 11 liver transplants, 12 kidney transplants and five bone marrow transplants. Likewise, Apollo Hospitals group in Bengaluru has conducted a total of 16 transplants (nine kidney and seven liver).

Sonal Asthana, Senior Consultant, Hepatobilary and Liver Transplant Surgery at Aster CMI Hospital, said many patients waiting for liver and kidney transplants have had serious implications due to low organ donations.

“We are currently dependent on live liver transplants for patients who are critically ill and cannot survive. There is also a lot of stress while operating during such times as we not only have to focus on saving the life of patients but also have to take care of our team and have to ensure that all the precautions are undertaken to avoid any contamination,” he said.

Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman of Manipal Hospitals, said the hospital had realised that the new normal was to co-exist with the pandemic.

“For many patients, transplantation is the only hope. Despite the prevailing pandemic environment, we are putting in efforts to create more awareness about organ donations so that we can provide a better quality of life to our patients,” he said.

Vishwanth. S, head of the department of Nephrology, at Manipal Hospitals, said the hospital resumed its transplant programme during the extended lockdown, maintaining an infection-free environment throughout.

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