State’s only eye bank closed down in J&K

After the kidney transplant racket was busted in Gurgaon last year,the first thing Jammu and Kashmir government did was to close down its one of a kind eye bank at the Government Medical College,Jammu.

Written by Ishfaq Naseem | Jammu | Published:March 3, 2009 11:21 am

After the kidney transplant racket was busted in Gurgaon last year,the first thing Jammu and Kashmir government did was to close down its one of a kind eye bank at the Government Medical College,Jammu.

Over a year since,it remains shut and the government has no immediate plans to re-open it. With the eye bank remaining closed,patients have no choice but to go outside the state for corneal transplants. Government Medical College Principal Rajinder Singh,however,said “since we don’t have an organ transplantation act,no transplants can be made. That was the reason we closed it down.’’

However sources in health department said that Jammu and Kashmir has its own organ transplant act which was framed in 1997 and there was a committee of health department officials which reviews every case of organ transplant.

Sources said that it was due to the failure on the part of the health department to make people donate their eyes that the eye bank was closed.

“The eye bank was started nearly nine years back and we maintained a list of persons who had registered for corneal transplants and were ready to donate their eyes. Nearly 309 people had registered for the transplants,but the officials didn’t follow up who among the voluntary donors died,to take consent from their relatives for the corneal transplant,” said a former head of the department of ophthalmology.

However GMC Principal said,“we have asked the government that it should make legislation for organ transplants and a committee will be set up for this. Under the new law which would be framed,like in the case of renal transplants,in corneal transplants as well,it will now only be the close relatives of those who require transplantation that the donations can be made.”

However the absence of an eye bank was seen even during the national eye donation awareness programmes,there are volunteers who pledge to donate their eyes after their death. “There was only a facility for corneal transplants and not other parts of the eye. But since eye bank has been closed now,the patients have no alternative but to go outside the state for transplants. Most of the states of India have their registered eye banks” sources said.

“However even as there was no eye bank,the officials continue to hold the functions for eye donation awareness fortnights from August 25-September 8 every year. Across the country every year 15-20 lakh corneal transplants are required,but not more than 20,000 people donate their eyes. A large number of patients who come to the private clinics of doctors also require corneal transplants here in the state,” sources add.

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