Monday, March 23, 2015

Coma- Not by Robin Cook.

Coma- Not by Robin Cook.

So I was chatting with a surgeon friend yesterday when he commented on the paucity of Indian patients who suddenly wake up from a coma of many years to get back their lost lives- as shown by many American medical sitcoms. The reason, as we jokingly termed it was, we have don’t have enough facilities and resources to support the long term unconscious patients who would occupy beds which more traumatized immediate patients would need. And also the unspoken reason which lingered on both our minds- we declare more patients as brain dead than any other country worldwide- because we need their organs to transplant to others. As my friend added- the worst thing anyone who is in an accident can do is to carry along an organ donor willingness card- which literally guarantees that you will not be resuscitated but harvested for your heart, liver, lung and kidney to sell to rich NRI patients. 

Now before you think that I am making unsubstantiated statements and casting aspersions on fine medical personnel who work selflessly to save patients- please go to your nearest government hospital to find out how many trauma/accident victims with brain injuries were/are admitted with coma and placed on ventilator support? And how many were declared brain dead immediately on arrival and their relatives coerced into donating their organs? And how many of those organs were actually transplanted into needy patients in the same government hospitals? Or how many were immediately transported to other private hospitals with the police providing special traffic arrangements and all, for transplanting into NRI recipients? The answers will surprise you.

Organ transplants are a thriving institution in India- because we lack the strict regulatory oversight mandatory in foreign countries. Brain death is inevitable only when the brain stem is affected and the patient cannot self support respiration but nowadays people are eager to certify any neuro injury as brain death simply because they find it the easiest way to legally obtain organs for transplant.  As various films have shown- most recently in the case of “yennai arindhal” the ajithkumar starrer- people will go to any extent to obtain organs to transplant into failing patients. And the easiest way to assist such unscrupulous folk is to, as my friend suggests, carrying a card around saying you are a willing donor. So the next time someone dear to you gets certified as brain dead- get a second opinion and a third opinion (from different doctors) - don’t take it at face value. After all as so many stories around the world have shown- miracles do happen- people do wake up from coma – to gladden the hearts of their near and dear.  

Hope is everything when it comes to saving someone close to us and even the best of us would hesitate to cut corners if it means the difference between life and death. We can only conclude by saying that organ donation is the noblest of acts a human being can perform for others- but only if it’s voluntarily from a willing donor.  On any other basis- it is purely evil. Let us wait the good days – not too far into the future when we can make artificial organs every bit as good as original and not have to depend on donor whims and fancies. And hopefully those days will also include treatment for resuscitating patients in coma and making them live normal lives again.

P.S. The opinions expressed in the above post are fictional and does not reflect on any real doctors or other medical personnel anywhere- all characters and conversations merely imaginary.

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