Organ Donation: Q & A With Dr Yasuni Manikkage

Sep 08 2023.

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Organ donation is the process when a person allows an organ of their own to be removed and transplanted to another person legally either by consent while the donor is alive or dead with the assent of the next of kin. Donations can be done for research or more commonly healthy transplantable organs and tissues may be donated to be transplanted into another person. According to experts organs from one donor can save up to 50 people. We spoke to Dr Yasuni Manikkage, Committee Organ Donation and Transplantation Foundation, Sri Lanka. 

Q CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT ORGAN DONATION IS? Organ donation is when a person gifts an organ or tissue to another person who needs a transplantation to live. This could be a donor who is alive or deceased. It is considered a gift of life. It all starts when someone’s organ starts to fail. Chronic diseases, for instance in the kidney, heart, liver or pancreas can cause people to die. Most of these diseases can be cured by organ transplantation.

Organ transplantation is considered one of the best medical advances of our time. They are very successful and most of the recipients want to live a normal happy fully functional life like they did before the surgery. It is a life-changing endeavour. Unfortunately, most patients do not receive an organ as waiting lists are very long and the number of patients needing a transplant often exceeds the number of donors. 

Q WHAT FACTORS MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN DONATING AN ORGAN? In order to have a transplant you need a donor. Patients are put on a transplant waiting list and we cannot really tell how long the waiting period will be. In Sri Lanka, 5000 patients with kidney failure die each year because we do not have enough donors. As doctors, it really breaks our hearts to see patients dying right in front of us because we do not have enough donors. There are two types of donors, live and deceased donors. It is possible to give one of your kidneys or part of your liver whilst you are still alive but not the heart. In Sri Lanka, most of the donations take place via deceased donations Sometimes even if your family member is from the same blood group it does not mean that your organs will match. 

Q IN SRI LANKA WHAT TYPE OF DONATIONS TAKE PLACE? In Sri Lanka, most donations take place from deceased donors mainly after they are considered clinically and legally brain dead. In reality, a patient dies when the heart stops. For instance, someone who has had an accident and is very ill despite all efforts of the doctors and cannot be revived is considered brain dead and the rest of the organs also die within the next 24 or 48 hours if he is not connected to the machine. Therefore, in this instance whilst being a patient one can be considered a donor. A single donor can save up to eight lives. If you die at home you cannot donate. 

Q IS THERE AN AGE LIMIT FOR ORGAN DONATION? No the youngest donor in the world was only a few hours old, and anyone from a newborn baby to an 80-year-old can become a donor. 

Q CAN THOSE WHO HAVE DISEASES DONATE ORGANS? Yes, diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes etc. should not prevent you from donating and the doctors will decide whether you are a suitable donor at the time of donation. 

Q DOES A TRANSPLANT AFFECT THE BODY? No the operation does not disfigure the body as the operation is done with utmost care and those who donate are treated with a lot of respect and dignity. 

Q DOES THE DONOR NEED THE APPROVAL OF THE FAMILY? Even if you are registered the doctors will ask for permission from the next of kin so it is important that they are kept informed of your desire to be a donor. Therefore when someone registers he must tell his family. 

When she was 15 years old Wasana had end-stage kidney disease and she got a kidney from a donor who was brain dead. A year after that she underwent a successful kidney transplant. Recently when she celebrated her 17th Birthday on August 06th she brought a cake baked by her to the operating theatre to celebrate the ‘ gift of life.’

By Kshalini Nonis


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