ORGAN DONATION: A MIXED BLESSING

Contrary to the suggestion in Ranjit Souri’s article “Cowboys and a Kidney” (India Currents, July 2007), organ donation is not always an unmixed blessing. Replacing an organ in the human body is not nearly as simple as replacing a worn automobile engine part. First of all, any major surgery entails serious medical risks. Secondly, unlike a car engine, the human body often rejects a transplanted organ. The organ recipient must take strong immuno-suppressant drugs to avoid this rejection. These drugs weaken the patient’s immune system, leading to many opportunistic infections and the need for more drugs.

Perhaps more importantly, the increased availability of organs may encourage doctors to choose the quicker and more lucrative organ transplant option over more conservative approaches. This is analogous to the way in which the number of cesarean sections has steadily gone up largely because C-sections are more convenient to schedule for doctors and more profitable for hospitals. If the number of organs available for transplant were to increase substantially, the number of people waiting for an organ (even dying while waiting for an organ) could increase.

There are also potential dangers associated with the process of procuring organs. There have been cases where doctors deliberately hastened the deaths of terminally ill or comatose patients (who had authorized organ donation) so that their organs could be harvested for transplantation. (In July of this year, a San Francisco surgeon, Hootan Roozrokh, was charged with such a crime.) In the much-publicized serial killings of poor children in Nithari last year, the parents of the victims voiced a strong suspicion that their children were murdered for their organs.

Although organ donation is certainly a noble gesture, the donors must not overlook the risks and the unintended consequences of organ transplant technology. Also, in the long-term, good health is best achieved through disease prevention (adopting a healthy lifestyle), not organ replacements. Therefore, instead of making human organs easily available, perhaps we should strive for a future where they are rarely needed.

Vijay Gupta, Cupertino, Calif.

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COMPLEX COMMUNITIES

I read the thought-provoking editorial on community (“Call it Community,” India Currents, August 2007). The word “community” comes from the Latin “communis,” meaning “common, public, shared by all or many.”

As a teacher, I have been talking about this word for a very long time from the biological perspective. Here is a definition of community from a scientific point of view: “A community is an assemblage of populations, each a different species, interacting with one another for the common good.”

I would add that all interactions among the members of a community are harmonious. It is “harmony” in a community that is the defining factor. However, from a social point of view, human communities are complex and vulnerable. The irony is that “we the people” have created this vulnerability.

The moment one loses sight of the word “harmony,” incidents like that of July 12, the case of Rajan Zed, happen.

Ashok Malik, Sunnyvale, Calif.

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INVOLVE INDIAN STUDENT GROUPS IN BONE MARROW DRIVES

I found Kalpana Mohan’s article, “Driving to Save Lives,” (India Currents, August 2007) regarding bone marrow donors very moving.

I agree with the statement that Indian families are less likely to donate, and I think this is partly because of our Indian culture. Families want their own children to do well and succeed, and sometimes I believe that we think in order to achieve individual success we cannot help others along the way. Parents are overly protective of their children. I once wanted to donate blood but was too young. My parents’ reaction was “no” anyway; not because of my age, but because they were afraid.

I think it is a lack of trust and ignorance regarding specific procedures that creates this boundary between the Indian community wanting to reach out and register and actually deciding to donate.

One idea I have for the organizations referred to in the article is to go to universities and reach out to the Indian student groups there. Many of my Indian friends in college are very passionate about their heritage and being involved in cultural events. I think that students can be quite knowledgeable about political and social issues relating to India and Indians. Outreach groups should go to universities such as the UCs and speak with the leaders of the Indian student communities in order to bring greater awareness and involvment to the issue of bone marrow donation.

Reni Biswas, U.C. San Diego, Calif.

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