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Ask the Experts
Liver transplant: A financial obligation?
We are already aware that the challenges come down not as one but many while going through a transplantation journey.
Highlighting the most significant factor is the problems faced by the people on the financial front.
Of course, we cannot neglect the burden of seeking a perfect healthy liver for a liver transplant recipient. The families of the liver patient are continuously in search of a healthy donor with a matching blood group. Many times, when an apt donor cannot be found in terms of mandatory condition( amongst family, near relatives, or a living liver donor), the families opt for a brain-dead donor( cadaveric liver donor).
Unfortunately, there is a massive gap in the ratio of people needing a donor and the ones donating it. The organ shortage is the number one cause of waiting list mortality.
In western countries, a person is given a priority score based on three tests- creatinine, bilirubin, and INR. This score is called the MELD score in adults and the PELD score in children.
Patients getting a high score top the list. If their condition worsens, their position rises in the list, and they become a ‘more qualified candidate’ to get a liver.
However, such a mature system of organ allocation is absent in our country. Most hospitals in the country have their specific waiting list in terms of organ rotation.
Thus, instead of the preferable method in the western world where allotment is based on the stage of risk an individual is in, on the contrary in India, an organ is allocated based on hospital rotation and not on the MELD/PELD priorities.
Finances involved in Liver Transplant-
Finances rule the world. It is an unruly factor in the path of your liver transplant journey.
A liver transplant is one of the most complicated and costly procedures that any hospital has to offer. The cost of a liver transplant in the US is 250,000 dollars.
Compared to India, the cost of a liver transplant is close to 25,000 to 30,000 US dollars.
Our country charges a minimum cost for such high-end surgery. Even government hospitals in India have a basic charge pay of Rs. 14 lacs minimum for a liver transplant surgery!
Unfortunately, this massive amount cannot be afforded by the majority of people here.
In India, many people struggle even to meet their daily requirements. They are, therefore, incapable of getting health insurance policies. Even individuals who have a policy are not entirely aided financially to take up the cost of a liver transplant.
Yet, liver transplant surgery is very economical in our country compared to most of the countries in the world. People from outside come here to get the treatment done, which is available to them at a cost-effective value, and also the quality of the treatment is of premium excellence.
State governments have come forth to help their residents to bear the financial constraints. Tamil Nadu, in the present day, runs the most successful donation program in the country. It has already approved 384 transplants summing up to Rs. 548.34 crores to eligible candidates. Goa is next on the list to finance liver transplant surgery. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, provide health insurance to specific sectors of society.
However, the sad reality is only a few people benefit from these schemes, and no colossal differences have yet been made. Most people are either unaware of such government schemes or are not eligible candidates to receive financial aid.
A number of crowdfunding platforms are gaining eminence as they are coming up to help grieving families. These fundraisers help in giving financial assistance to people who are in dire need. These platforms ensure that medical emergencies( not only liver transplants but all life-threatening diseases) are met quickly. They offer to give healthcare expenses that are raised online by family, friends, and even strangers.
Recently, one such online help service has set a perfect example that was widely circulated on social media. It helped to raise a total amount of Rs. 16 crore as a fund for a boy undergoing a rare genetic disease.
The financial burden, thus, is a major setback to the untimely death of liver disorder patients. If they manage a surgery, the survival rates are usually high, and it uplifts their chances to live many more years.
The government has taken few steps in concern to free liver patients from the above restrictions. However, the initiative is not as remarkable compared to the rise in liver dysfunction in patients.
Either due to finances or inability to get a healthy donor and sometimes both the criteria involved, a person loses his life.
Hopefully, the government will develop more plans and better control of the system to help people at least get the treatment they require.
For the time being, we should remain extremely grateful to the crowdfunding platforms that are helping every sector of society to avail such expensive treatments that they usually could not afford.