Organ donation is based on the altruistic virtue of humanity which symbolizes love and compassion towards fellow human beings. So before dwelling deeper into Organ Donation, first let us have some glimpses of views expressed by some of the saints and celebrities. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Nelson Mandella said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” The Dalai Lama throws a light on humanity like this – “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Roy T. Bennett said, “Humanity should be our race. Love should be our religion. Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people”. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers”.
Organ and Skin Donation: An Overview
Organ transplantation is a well-established and important form of the treatment. In current days, it is acknowledged as the only life-saving therapy for end-stage organ failure. Most recent data from the WHO Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation (GODT) indicate that over 130,000 solid organ transplants are performed worldwide. Though this figure is impressive, it is estimated that this number represents less than 10% of the global need. Furthermore, there is a huge discrepancy in the availability and access to services, as rates of organ donation and transplantation vary significantly between WHO regions. The situation of organ shortage causes high mortality rates of people that are on waiting lists and increased probability of obtaining organs through illegal and unethical means.
It may not be very widely known but like any organ, skin can be donated and transplanted too. Just as organ donation can be a life saver for people in need of transplants due to organ failure, skin donation also gives a new lease of life to those whose skin damage cannot be repaired through natural regenerative process.
Current Situation of India
It is estimated that each year, approximately 2,50,000 people need a kidney, 80,000 require a liver transplant, 50,000 need a heart transplant, and a startling 1,00,000 need a cornea transplant! Against this, only 5,000 kidneys are available, 30 heart-transplants are possible, 700 livers are available, and 25,000 cornea transplants are done annually. Every 17 minutes someone dies waiting for transplant, every 13 minutes someone is added to a waiting list and 1.5 lakh people die of road accidents. The situation is quite an eye-opener.
As per the current online report, India has shown a rise in the number of transplants. Annually, in India, 5000 kidneys, 1000 livers and around 50 hearts transplantation take place. It is a good sign but the current organ donation rate in India is only 0.86 per million compared to 46.9 per million of Spain’s and 31.96 per million of America’s. As per the online report, even if India reaches 1 per million organ donation rates, it will almost meet the current demand of organs. Thus, it is very essential to create awareness regarding organ donation and hence August 13 is observed as Organ Donation day worldwide.
Mostly, all of us are following some religion, so it is of utmost importance that what religion has to say about organ donation. Is it a healthy practise to donate our organs according to our religions? As we know, there are many religions on this earth, and every religion has its own set of rules and conducts. Let us delve into major religions’ beliefs regarding organ donation.
Different Religion Views on Organ Donation
Christians generally support organ donation as an altruistic act and leave the process as an individual decision. The Church of England has stated that organ donation is an act of Christian duty. Catholics believe the dead body is designed for resurrection and eternal life. However, love and communion are key beliefs in Catholic religion and act of organ donation is considered an act of self-giving and communion.
The majority of Islamic religious leaders accept organ donation during life (provided it does not harm the donor) and after death in order to save someone’s life.
The Buddha is believed to have sacrificed himself by jumping into a fire in order to nourish a lost and starved villager in woods, in a previous life as a rabbit. This bodhisattva value of compassion is also expressed through organ donation by putting another person’s wellness above one’s own.
In Hinduism, the physical integrity of the body after death is not considered important. Hindu values reincarnation and prolonging life which allows for many individuals to agree with organ donation.
So the fact that anyone cannot deny is that almost all religions share the common ground when the subject matter is human welfare.
Jainism on Organ Donation
Jain beliefs are very clear in this matter that the body from which the soul has departed is of no value. Thus, if any part of that body can be usefully employed at least someone else will benefit out of it. Lord Mahavira gave the principle of Non-violence (Ahimsa), it is not limited to not harming other creatures, but also about extending oneself and loving them to overcome any undesired situation. God’s family consists of all living beings (Jivas), if worms, insects, plants and microorganisms are also part of His family, then why not humans. Many Jainas believe that the organ donation does not comply with the principles of Jainism. But truly speaking Jainism is a religion which puts others welfare and wellbeing to the utmost priority and organ donation is one of the ways to achieve the same.
For quite some time, the principles of Jainism as taught by Mahavir Bhagwan had been obscured. Shrimad Rajchandraji has been instrumental in rekindling the learning of these spiritual principles and reintroducing the path of liberation and the same has been continued by His ardent devotee, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai.
Propounding the path of Bhagwan Mahavira, an ardent devotee of Shrimad Rajchandraji, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai is the inspiration and founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur. He says that life is from B (Birth) to (D) Death; one does not have any choice in either of these two, but in between comes C and it stands for Choices. One can choose to remain focused on self-centric desires or alternatively make a choice to love and help humanity and in turn live meaningful life.
A few NGOs have come forward to help the noble initiative of bridging gap between organ donors and people in need of organs. Out of these, perhaps the first NGO based on the principles of Jainism, that has come forward for this cause, is Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care. Srimad Rajchandra Love and Care is an initiative of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur to offer service and bring joy to the lives of the underprivileged sections of society.
Relevance of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care towards Humanity
Their unique 10-fold benevolent programme focuses on a wide range of high quality, charitable, and sustainable initiatives for the welfare of people, animals, and the environment. Over 50 holistic and multi-pronged projects are powered by the genuine empathy of highly motivated volunteers. The 10-fold Care programme consists of the following.
- Health Care
- Education Care
- Child Care
- Women Care
- Tribal Care
- Community Care
- Humanitarian Care
- Animal Care
- Environmental Care
- Emergency Relief Care
Shrimad Rajchandra Organ Donation initiative is a part of their Community Care programme.
(Launch of the Organ Donation Programme by Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care in the presence of dignitaries like: Mr. Subhash Ghai (Filmmaker), Smt. Snehal Ambekar (Mayor of Mumbai), Shri Raosaheb Shinde (ACP – E.R.), Shri Manoj Lohiya (ACP – C.R.), Dr. Aditi Gowitrikar (Actor & Model) & Dr. Bharat Shah (Nephrologist & Kidney Transplant Specialist)
What is Shrimad Rajchandra Organ-Donation Campaign?
Shrimad Rajchandra Organ Donation Programme was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2016. In a short span, the programme has spread awareness to over a million people across 150 cities in the world! It is a public awareness campaign to encourage and promote deceased organ donation. Through this global initiative, their aim to bring about a positive change to the current transplant scenario by inspiring people to pledge for organ donation and bridge the huge gap between need and availability. In the first year of its launch alone, Srimad Rajchandra Love and Care volunteers were successful in spreading the awareness of this programme amongst 100 corporate, educational institutions and other organisations.
(Pledge by more than 3000 devotees of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission in just few minutes after the launch)
(Pujya Gurudevshree signing the first pledge form after its launch)
Global impact of Shrimad Rajchandra Organ Donation Programme
Several cities in India and abroad have participated in this initiative. People from over 150 cities, across 10 countries worldwide, have pledged their organs as a part of this initiative. By being an Organ Donor, one can save the lives of up to 8 individuals and save or improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues and eyes.
Shrimad Rajchandra Organ Donation campaign has been supported by many institutions, charitable trusts, and government organisations. Many have pledged to carry the message of organ donation. Mumbai Dabbawala is one such body which communicated this noble cause through messages on their dabbas (lunch boxes).
Celebrities/Leaders Pledged or Donated Organ
Many celebrities from Indian film industry have applauded and endorsed the cause of organ donation. Aamir Khan, reportedly after watching the movie “The Ship of Theseus (2012)”, with a story revolving around organ donation, pledged all his organs. Priyanka Chopra also pledged all her organs. The death of her father had become instrumental in her decision. Salman Khan is the first Bollywood celebrity to pledge the donation of his bone marrow. Following him, his brother, filmmaker Arbaaz Khan, also joined the cause. In addition to this, Shabana Aazmi and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan also have pledged for organ donation.
Many celebrities have donated their vital organs, skin or eyes after their demise. Jerry Orbach gave his eyes to two New Yorkers. Natasha Richardson, a famous actress, donated her heart, liver, and kidneys. Jerry Orback donated his eyes, Richard “Dick” Cass, Oscar Robertson, Senator Jake Garn and Ann Serrano donated their kidney. Jon-Erik Hexum donated heart, kidneys, corneas, and his skin. Everson Walls donated a kidney to his Dallas Cowboys teammate Ron Springs, who was suffering from diabetes. Rajkumar, the famous actor and singer who became a cultural icon of India’s film industry, donated his eyes upon his death in 2006, helping not one but two people as a result.
As mentioned, the world is facing many challenges against organ donation. Some reasons are as under.
- Religious Myths
- Professional Ignorance
- Apathy to the cause
- Shy/ Afraid of discussion donation
- Do not know – What to do?
- Fear of Litigation
- Poor Communication
These myths, misinformation and preconceived notions are barriers that weaken the instincts of solidarity and philanthropy, bringing around selfishness and uncertainties. Public education, mainly through the media, participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), lectures and spreading awareness by experts, has been the main strategy to change social attitudes toward organ donation. It is important to highlight that the results of these educational endeavours have not been completely satisfactory, as the situation is still critical. Although the public is more aware about transplantation issues, there remains a shortage of donated organs. More efforts are needed to dispel the darkness of ignorance pertaining to organ and tissue donation.