Brazilians will be commemorating National Organ Donation Day on September 27. Brazil currently has the largest public system of transplants in the world.
Ninety two percent of all transplant operations in the country are done in the National Health System (SUS). In absolute figures, the country is second only to the United States.
To be a donor in Brazil, it is necessary to obtain family authorization. Donors are not required to leave written instructions, and organs are only removed after neurological examinations confirm brain death.
The examination should be performed by two physicians who are not part of the organ removal and transplant teams, and family members can indicate doctors of their own choice.
There are currently around 60 thousand people awaiting transplants in Brazil. Even though the number of donors is still small, Brazil broke a record in 2004: Between January and May, the total number of transplants performed in the country was 27.1% greater than during the same period of 2003.
In absolute terms, 8,544 transplants were performed through April of this year, compared with 4,561 during the same period last year””a difference of 3,983 transplants.
Outfitting donation centers is precisely the strategy that the Ministry of Health plans to adopt to increase the number of transplants in the country.
The Coordinator of the Ministry’s National Transplant System (SNT), Roberto Schlindwein, claims that relying only on people’s solidarity will not be sufficient to resolve the problem.
According to the SNT’s statistics, cornea transplants, a total of 3,380, represented half the transplants performed in Brazil in the first five months of 2004. The SNT intends to do 12 thousand more cornea transplants by the end of the year.
The goal is to eliminate the line of 22,871 patients who are awaiting corneas, and it is close to being achieved. SNT data show that the waiting period for corneas is less anguishing””it takes a year, on average.
Were it possible to remove the corneas from everyone who dies in Brazil, the waiting list would be over in just four days. There are practically no counter-indications in the case of cornea donations.
They are the only body parts that can be transplanted up to six hours after the heart has stopped beating. The operation also does not require expensive facilities.
The Federal Police’s discovery earlier this year of an international network of traffickers in human organs who operated in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state, recruiting poor people to sell one of their kidneys to recipients in South Africa, did not reduce the number of donors in that state.
In light of repercussions surrounding the scheme, organ transplant specialists in the state were fearful that the population would lose confidence in public health services and come to view donations with reluctance.
According to the coordinator of the Pernambuco Transplant Center, Josemberg Campos, the decline did not occur, due to ample coverage in the local press, which demonstrated that neither professionals nor institutions that are part of the public system were involved in the crimes.
Campos underlined that, during the first five days of 2004, 17 patients who were awaiting organ transplants received organs, thanks to donations.