March 07, 2011

Health Ministry for driving licence to indicate desire to donate organ

If the Union Health Ministry has its way, driver’s licences will indicate if the holder wants to donate organs after death.
In an ambitious plan to decrease the gap between the demand and supply of organs, the government is considering earmarking a designated space, indicating “donor”, on the driving licence.

The idea, officials say, will soon be communicated to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

The ministry has got a sample driving licence from the US so that the same design and matter could be replicated here.

“At least, the intention of a dying person will be known to doctors, who can thereafter convince the family,” said a senior ministry official.

In a bid to streamline organ donation, the government also proposes to allow swap donation, tissue donation and expand the definition of near relatives to include grandparents and grandchildren in the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Bill 2009, which is likely to see light of the day soon.

With the amendments ready, the ministry proposes to table the final draft of the Bill, which may be called “Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act” (THOTA), during the budget session.

The amendments were recommended by the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare last year. Tissue donation will include heart valves, bones transplantation, cornea, skin and vessels.

Once passed by Parliament, a pair of donor and recipient who are near relatives but whose organs do not medically match for transplantation will now be permitted to “swap organs” with another pair of such persons.

However, the approval of an authorisation committee that will be constituted by the state governments and Union Territories will be required. The composition of the committee will be prescribed by the Centre .

The Health Ministry accepted about 43-odd recommendations of the Standing Committee to widen the scope of organ donation.

After the Cabinet passes it, the proposed Bill will be sent to the Law Ministry and then tabled in Parliament during the Budget Session.

Earlier, near-relatives included spouse, son, mother, daughter, father, brother, sister. Now, it adds grandparents and grandchildren.

The Bill enhances the penalty for unauthorised removal of human organs and for receiving or making payment for human organs up to 10 years of imprisonment and Rs. 25 lakh fine.

In case the donor or recipient is a foreign national, prior approval of the authorisation committee will be mandatory.

“In case the recipient is a foreigner and the donor is Indian, donation will be allowed only if they are relatives,” said a senior official in the ministry.

The government is also considering “required request” for patients dying in the intensive care unit (ICU). “If the patient is brain dead, the incharge of the ICU can give the option of donation to the family,” added the official.
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