An Expert Committee of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, Thursday in a report placed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court recommended that a ‘National Registry of Voluntary Organ Donor’ should be maintained for people who in their lifetime express willingness to donate organs and their pledge should be taken as an affirmative action or ‘living directive’ after their death.
The nine-member committee of senior doctors of the PGIMER said the registry may be based on a unique national ID number given by National Organ & Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) and explained that the centralised record of such voluntary donors will mitigate such instances where reservations are expressed later at the time of death of a person by their next of kin consenting for organ donation.
“Living Directive/Will’ has been recognised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Common Cause VS Union of India… No reason why a donor card should not be treated as a Living Directive,” the committee has said, adding that it will also bring transparency in the process.
The division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli Thursday sought a reply of the Union government and states of Punjab of Haryana on the report in a PIL filed by advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal for effective implementation of the provisions of the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994, and for a uniform policy for organ transplantation.
In the report, the committee has also appealed to the High Court to clarify the existing provisions regarding the consent process. “The definition of ‘legal possessor’ in the hospital who can give consent for organ donation and the ‘near relative’ for deceased donors needs to be clarified to all coordinators and doctors,” the committee said, adding that the ‘near relative’ is not present in the hospital at all times during a person’s treatment and thus it needs to be clarified in those cases who can give legal consent under the law.
The committee explained that sometimes only one relative or attendant is available with a patient who has come from a far-off place and though the relative or attendant may be willing to give consent for organ donation, he may not fulfil the legal condition. “The pertinent question here is that is this relative/attendant the legal possessor who can give consent or only a near relative living far away at that moment can give a consent for organ donation,” it has asked, adding that bringing that relative from the distant place may turn out to be a mammoth task and the patient in the meantime may become unsuitable for organ procurement.
Stating that the process of organ donation and consent involves religious beliefs, social taboos and certain apprehensions by the relatives, the committee has said there needs to be involvement of certified NGOs and religious bodies to create positive awareness.