Organ Donation and Transplantation is a challenge that goes far beyond the medical perspective – it is a global challenge that needs to be addressed in a multi-faceted way. This was once again demonstrated on the 4th ELPAT congress held in Rome from the 22nd until the 25th of April themed ‘Global Challenges’. The conference gathered delegates from various disciplines and from all over the world addressing topics related to ethical, legal and psychosocial aspects of transplantation.
The four days of the conference were packed with insightful presentations and thought-provoking debates. Living donation and the ethics of incentivizing donors were only two among the many hot topics of the conference and the diverse agenda also provided vast insights into the variations of national organ donation approaches and systems, many times followed by subsequent debates leading to emphasize that there is no one model that fits all. Topics such as facial, head and uterus transplantation made me once again be amazed by the possibilities of modern medicine and took debates about moral, social and legal aspects to another level.
As a delegate I also had the honor to present some preliminary results of my research conducted with MOHAN Foundation in Chennai in late 2015. The analysis of twenty semi-structured interviews showed that although transparency, government support and altruism are important preconditions, public trust as for now seems to be mainly built on the level of personal experience and relations at the hospital, whereas media and community dynamics act as important facilitators. These findings provide supporting evidence for the crucial importance of highly skilled transplant coordinators in the Indian context, which Dr. Sunil Shroff emphasized in his presentation on ‘The role of transplant coordinators in public engagement’.
Of particular interest I furthermore found the extremely insightful presentations and lively debates on transplant tourism and organ trafficking, which once again proved that the issue yet continues to be only fragmentarily understood. As suspicions around organ commercialism are among the factors to fuel mistrust and obstruct organ donation in India and other South Asian countries, there is a clear need to better understand transplant tourism and organ commercialism and its interferences on public perception in the these countries as well.
Uncountable notes, conversations, presentations, ideas and thoughts like those made my attendance to the conference a truly unique and enriching experience and I am very thankful for MOHAN Foundation for the support and encouragement to conduct and present my fieldwork.