Gift of Sight

Posted by : Mr. Sreehari Nair, 27 Aug 2013 11:34 AM
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Dr. Nisheeta Agarwala, Consultant Ophthalmologist in a tête-à-tête with Sreehari Nair talks about the huge gap in the demand and supply of eye donations and how we can meet the same...

What is the approximate blind population living in India?

There would be approximately 15 million people who are blind. This could by birth or caused due to any other problems. Out of this around 3.5 million would be suffering from corneal blindness. India registers about 30,000 new cases annually.

The number of eye banks has increased but the donations seem to be still less, what could be the reason?

The annual demand for eye donations is nothing less than 2,50,000 while the supply is just about 40,000 out of which 30% is useful only for restoring vision.

What is the difference in the level of awareness in rural and urban areas?

Education and access to eye banks play a key role in the awareness for eye donations in India. People living in urban areas are now getting more and more aware of the importance and necessity for organ donation and specifically eye donations. The awareness programmes have to be equally distributed in the urban and rural areas.

Why do you think there is a lack of commitment by people to donate eyes?

There is a clear lack of motivation amongst the citizens to donate their eyes (organs). Also, we are very much stuck in cultural stigma and religious bias towards donating eyes of your loves ones in the fear that in the next birth he or she will be born blind. There is also a lack of clear processes to ensure collection by eye banks.

It is said that the corneal donations have also dropped in India? Is that true?

No, there has been no drop in donations but the numbers are not enough. As said earlier, there needs to be more awareness amongst the people of this country on the importance and need of organ donation.

How can one make eye donation?

First thing to do is to discuss with family members your desire to donate. Additionally, you can also fill the organ donation card available at Hinduja Hospital. This information should also be shared with your family. Many do not know that there is a toll free number (1919) for eye donation. As of now there is just about 1% conversion that occurs here. You could also inform your General Physician. The fact is anyone can be a donor.

How much of eye donation cases does Hinduja Hospital get each month/year?

The hospital receives approximately 2 to 3 cases of eye donation each month.

What do you think is the way forward to get more people to donate eyes?

Social awareness is very important. Also, if the deceased had pledged to donate his eyes (organs) relatives should duly inform the doctor/hospital about the same. Also, the doctor can incorporate a line requesting donation in the donation card.

Is there any point that you would like to raise on eye donation?

Anyone can be a ray of hope and donate. One donation can technically help 2 to 4 patients. If eye is not suitable for donation, then it can be alternatively used for training or for research. 

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