By Faranak Bakhtiari

Organ donation: dead or alive?

May 20, 2022 - 18:1

TEHRAN – Making a decision for a brain-dead member is one of the toughest conditions for a family, but it would be easier if they feel to spare other families awaiting an organ transplant the pain of losing a child or to keep alive the memory of their loved one.

The country celebrates “National Organ Donation Day” annually on May 21. The day commemorates the issuance of a decree by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, on May 21, 1989, authorizing organ donation.

The history of organ and tissue transplantation in Iran dates back to 1935 when a patient's cornea was transplanted in one of Tehran's hospitals. Kidney transplantation first took place in 1968 and transplantation of other organs and tissues gradually took place in the 1970s and 1980s.

With a rate of 14.34 per one million people, Iran is ranked first for organ donation among Asian countries. According to the Iranian Society of Organ Donation, there are two types of death in the medical world; Heart death (common death), which accounts for 99 percent of deaths worldwide, and brain death, which accounts for one percent of deaths.

Organ donation is an altruistic decision that can be made by the family members after brain death. Although many organizations and medical centers have implemented various interventions and training courses to increase satisfaction with organ donation, a lack of organs for donation still is a serious problem in the world.

As a result, thousands of patients on waiting lists for transplantation die every year.

In Iran, about 5,000 to 8,000 people die each year from brain death, half of whom, or about 3,000, have transplanted organs. Unfortunately, 1,000 families, or one-third, are satisfied with organ donation.

In Iran, there are over 25,000 patients in need of transplants on the waiting lists for various organs, but unfortunately, 7 to 10 of them die every day due to the lack of a transplanted organ, accounting for over 3,000 a year.

Considering that 7,000 transplant recipients are buried annually due to family dissatisfaction and 3,000 needy patients die, on the other hand, it can be considered that if only half of the buried organs could save the lives of all.

Organ donation in the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2021) has increased so far by 66 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, Katayoun Najafizadeh, director of the Iranian Organ Donation Association, has stated.

Shortly before the patient is pronounced dead, the family should agree to donate his/her organs, which can save almost 10 lives and help others through tissue donation.

People who are on an organ waiting list typically have end-stage organ disease that significantly impacts their quality of life and maybe near the end of their life. Receiving an organ can become a life-changing event for these people. It can also help a family work through the grieving process and deal with their loss by knowing their loved one is helping save the lives of others.

Organ donation is an act supported by almost all religions. This includes Catholics, Protestants, Islam, and most branches of Judaism who see it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.

Iran tops Asian countries in organ donation

Mehdi Shadnoush, head of the Health Ministry's center for transplantation and disease management, announced in June 2020 that Iran is ranked first for organ donation among Asian countries.

“The country’s organ donation rate is 14.34 per one million people,” he noted.

In February 2019, Shadnoush said that the organ donation rate has increased by 60 times over the past 18 years. Although Iran ranks 26 in organ donation in the world.

Organ donation of brain death has reached up to 60 percent, he said, lamenting that the country ranks 21st regarding organ donation from brain dead patients in the world while ranking 14th regarding organ transplant from alive patients.

According to the figures revealed by the International Registry in Organ Donation and Transplantation (IRODaT), Spain leads the world in organ donation.

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