When Rohini Acharya donated a kidney to her 74-year-old father Lalu Prasad Yadav a few months ago, it was hailed as an act of selflessness. She was hailed for leading by example and for being a “hero”. As World Organ Donor Day 2023 approached, I came across another “selfless story”: that of a Mumbai-based mother-in-law who donated one of her kidneys to her mother-in-law. 43 year old girl. . On the Indian small screen, the trailer for an ongoing show features a young woman willingly agreeing to donate an organ to save a little girl. These stories can instantly touch the heart, but digging a little deeper might uncover some uncomfortable truths about organ donation. Gender disparity in organ donation is a reality not just in India but across the world, studies and experts say.
In India, organ transplants may have increased from 4,990 in 2013 to 16,041 in 2022, according to the National Organization for Organ and Tissue Transplantation (NOTTO). This is still only a tiny fraction of the country’s population of over 1.4 billion. Among them, deceased donors do not even represent a share of the number of living donors. And among these living organ donors, women outnumber men.
Gender Disparity in Organ Donation
Over the recent past, various hospitals and state organizations in India have compiled figures regarding the gender disparity in organ donation. In Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s home state, more than 120 women, compared to just 50 men, have donated a kidney for a loved one out of the nearly 170 kidney transplants reported in the state since 2016. Multiple media outlets metropolitan cities reported like New Delhi and Mumbai also cite doctors who point out the gender disparity among female organ donors and among male organ recipients. It also affects gender-based disparities in women’s access to transplantation.
Women with kidney disease are less likely to be referred for transplant evaluation and therefore receive a kidney transplant, and yet they make up the majority of living kidney donors, a 2021 study in the Lippincott noted. Williams & Wilkins Journal.
The problem is not just in India.
A Google search will immerse you in the global scenario of gender disparity in organ donation. A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association notes that gender disparities in organ donation in the United States have persisted for more than 25 years. According to this study, women are more willing than men to donate their own organs to family members or strangers.
Why do more women than men donate their organs?
There can be many explanations and hypotheses for this. A 2022 article in the National Medical Journal of India concedes that economic implications, a greater sense of selflessness among women, as well as gender bias in institutions or specialists through communication, may be reasons for which more women end up becoming living donors – either as mothers, wives, daughters or sisters.
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According to Dr. Ankur Garg, a specialist in liver transplants, there is no doubt that there is gender inequality in living organ donation.
“A lot of this is due to the mentality of our society and, to some extent, the fact that it is patriarchal. More and more men are suffering from alcoholic liver disease and excessive alcohol consumption is more common among men, and wives end up becoming donors,” Dr. Garg tells Health Shots.
Dr. Sumit Sharma, Director and Head of Department of Urology, Uro-Oncology, Andrology, Uro-Robotics and Kidney Transplantation, Sanar International Hospitals,
supports his point of view.
“Cultural and societal norms often see women as caregivers and nurturers, which makes them prone to acts of compassion. Hormonal differences and greater health awareness in women also play a role,” says Dr. Sharma.
Read also: Know the 5 main organs that can be donated
Women are the most active kidney donors, says doctor
During living organ donation, women frequently donate their kidneys for kidney transplantation due to the safety of the procedure and lower risk of complications. They also provide segments of bone marrow or liver, depending on their penchant for healing, Dr. Sharma says.
It turns out that the kidneys and part of the liver are the only possible transplants when it comes to living organ donation. Heart, lung and pancreas transplantation is only possible after brainstem death or after deceased donation.
Although live organ donation is generally safe, women should be aware of the potential health risks, especially during pregnancy and hormonal changes. Adequate postoperative care and regular health examinations are therefore essential, doctors insist.
The need to raise awareness about organ donation
India has a strong culture of living organ donation, often driven by family ties and empathy. However, deceased organ donation remains low due to cultural, legal and logistical challenges, Dr. Sharma says.
What can motivate people to normalize organ donation after death?
India is very low in terms of deceased organ donation, with rates as low as 0.5 per million population, Dr. Garg notes.
“If India is talked about as deceased organ donation, I don’t think anyone in India will ever need living donors. There is a lack of awareness and knowledge about the concept of brainstem death and deceased donation. We need to take steps to sensitize and educate our community about it and the best time is to introduce it in schools and colleges,” adds the expert, who is doing his part to raise awareness through “Zindagi Phir Se,” a podcast on the organ. Don.
Raising awareness of deceased organ donation through education, policy change and community engagement is essential for society, Dr. Sharma agrees.
He adds, “Balancing this effort with the recognition of living organ donors can create a comprehensive organ donation landscape in India. Also, as a society, we need to start a conversation about the benefits of organ donation, encouraging people to come forward to donate voluntarily, de-stigmatizing the process.