Why are Women More Likely to Donate Organs than Men?
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 09, 2023
When it comes to organ donation, stories of selflessness and heroism like Rohini Acharya donating a kidney to her father or a mother-in-law donating to her daughter-in-law often grab our attention. However, a closer look at organ donation reveals a gender disparity that exists not only in India but across the globe.
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Gender Disparity in Organ Donation
Multiple studies and experts have highlighted the gender disparity in organ donation. In India, while organ transplants have increased over the years, the number of deceased donors is still significantly lower than living donors. Moreover, among living organ donors, women outnumber men.
In Bihar, for example, there have been over 120 women donors compared to only 50 men donors out of the total reported renal transplants in the state since 2016. Similar disparities have been reported in metropolitan cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. These gender imbalances also impact women’s access to transplantation.
Women suffering from kidney disease are less likely to be referred for transplant evaluation and receive a kidney transplant. Paradoxically, they constitute the majority of living kidney donors, as stated in a 2021 study in the Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Journal. This gender disparity is not unique to India but is prevalent globally.
Exploring the Reasons
There are several explanations and hypotheses for the higher number of female organ donors. Economic implications, a greater sense of self-sacrifice among women, and gender bias in institutions or communication from specialists may contribute to this imbalance.
Dr. Ankur Garg, a liver transplant specialist, believes that societal mindset and the prevalence of alcoholic liver disease among men are contributing factors. He highlights that wives often become donors due to these reasons. Dr. Sumit Sharma, Director and Head of Department at Sanar International Hospitals, adds that cultural and societal norms that view women as caregivers may also influence their inclination towards acts of compassion. Additionally, hormonal differences and higher health consciousness among women could play a role.
Women as Active Kidney Donors
In live organ donations, women frequently donate kidneys due to the procedure’s safety and lower complication risk. Moreover, their caregiving inclination leads them to contribute bone marrow or liver segments. Kidney and liver transplants are the most feasible options for living organ donation, as heart, lung, and pancreas transplants require brain stem death or deceased donation.
While live organ donation is generally safe, it’s important for women to consider potential health risks, particularly during pregnancy and hormonal changes. Adequate post-operative care and regular health check-ups are vital.
Increasing Organ Donation Awareness
India has a strong culture of living organ donation driven by familial ties and empathy. However, deceased organ donation remains low due to cultural, legal, and logistical challenges. Increasing awareness and knowledge about brain stem death and deceased donation is crucial.
Dr. Garg emphasizes that if India improves deceased organ donation rates, the need for living donors will decrease significantly. He believes that introducing the concept of brain stem death and deceased donation in schools and colleges is essential to raise awareness. Dr. Sharma agrees that raising awareness about deceased organ donation through education, policy changes, and community engagement is crucial. Balancing this effort with acknowledging live organ donors can create a comprehensive organ donation landscape in India. It is also important to initiate conversations about the benefits of organ donation, encouraging voluntary donations and destigmatizing the process.
Raising awareness and promoting understanding of organ donation are vital steps towards bridging the gender gap and ensuring equal access to life-saving transplants. By working together as a society, we can make a significant impact in the lives of those in need.