Case study - Importance of informing next-of-kin about organ donation pledge
On 6th October 2021, Ms. Ishwarya, Counselor of MOHAN Foundation received a call on the toll-free helpline number around 5.40pm. The caller informed that her 24-year-old nephew had died by suicide (hanging) around 1pm and was carrying an organ donor card of MOHAN Foundation. The deceased was an employee of Billroth Hospitals, Chennai. He was initially admitted to a private hospital and the family was asked to shift the body to the government Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) for postmortem after being declared dead.
The family called on the Foundation's tollfree helpline that was on the donor card of the deceased. The uncle and aunt of the deceased were informed that efforts could be taken for cornea and skin retrieval. They were also told that the immediate next-of-kin will have to provide consent for any donation that may take place. The family members were greatly distressed as they had been just informed that there would be a major delay in returning the body. The postmortem was to be performed only the next day as the forensic doctors had already left for the day, and the body was going to be retained in the mortuary.
Calls were made to Sankara Nethralaya for eye donation and Right Hospitals for skin as the counselor of KMC was not reachable. Clarity was sought on the possibility of tissue donation in these circumstances. The skin bank in-charge of Right Hospitals advised that it would be appropriate if the skin retrieval were to be done by KMC itself, which had an in-house skin bank available and helped with providing the contact of a Professor from the Plastic Surgery Department of KMC. The
Professor when contacted, informed that he would have the technicians from his department go to mortuary for retrieval. Technicians from Sankara Nethralaya also had reached out to the family and were ready for the retrieval.
The situation seemed to be favorable towards tissue donation despite the initial hiccups in trying to coordinate the case remotely, only over phone. However, the family suddenly became unreachable in an unexpected turn of events. Multiple attempts to contact the family to check on the status of donation were unsuccessful. It came to our knowledge the following day, through Sankara Nethralaya, that the mother of the deceased had unfortunately refused to provide consent for retrieval at the last minute. Both retrieval teams had arrived at the mortuary, only to have the Resident Medical Officer let them know that consent was not provided.
This case study is an ideal example that illustrates the importance of informing one's family members about wishing to be an organ donor. The deceased was aware of the importance of organ donation, had pledged to be an organ donor and was carrying a donor card as well. However, this alone unfortunately did not serve the purpose as his immediate family was unaware of the deceased's wishes and could not fulfill them. It is of paramount importance that when someone pledges to be an organ donor, they inform their next-of-kin of their wishes to enable them to act when it really matters.
- Copyright © 2021. Published by MOHAN Foundation
- Keywords: Kilpauk Medical College, toll free helpline, donor card, tissue donation, mortuary