If you don’t know anything about organ donation, Joseph is a wonderful Malayalam film, otherwise it has problems. So does writer Benyamin’s book, Sharira Shasthram. At least that’s what the Indian Medical Association feels about the film and the book that discuss the conspiracies behind organ donation.
Dr Sulphi Nuhu, Secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Kerala chapter, feels the film would affect the already difficult process of obtaining organ donors. He shows the numbers. “There are more than 2000 registered people waiting for organ donation. There would be more who are not registered, and who might think they should just give up without waiting for a donor,” Dr Sulphi says.
The statistics he shares shows 1756 people waiting for kidney, 375 for liver, 36 for heart, 3 for pancreas and nine for hand. That’s 2179 all in Kerala this year.
The film Joseph depicts a medical racket through which potential organ donors are killed in staged accidents, and the organs go to patients from foreign countries while the poor people at the top of the receivers list are given fake surgeries. Benyamin’s book too touches the topic of corruption in organ donation.
Benyamin's book 'Sharira Shasthram'
“One has to first understand there are two types of organ donation: live and deceased. Live donors are those who willingly donate an organ like a kidney or part of an organ. We agree that there is some corruption happening in the case of live donors, through middlemen. We don’t really promote live donors unless it is an immediate relative,” Dr Sulphi says. So they opt for deceased or cadaveric donors – after someone has died or is declared brain dead.
It is this deceased donation that has been depicted as corrupt in the movie and the novel. The doctor says that it is impractical to plot murders and take away organs. And it is not as easy as one doctor declaring a person brain dead. In fact, the rules for organ donation were made stricter in recent years, which have brought down the number of donors significantly.
If you look at the data from the last five years, there were 36 donors in 2013, 58 in 2014, 76 in 2015 and 72 in 2016. In 2017, it suddenly came down to 18 and this year so far, it is just six.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “brain death is defined by the following criteria: two certifications are required 6 hours apart from doctors and two of these have to be doctors nominated by the appropriate authority of the government with one of the two being an expert in the field of neurology.”
So, getting donors is already a difficult process. Dr Sulphi feels that with such convincing story-telling as shown in Joseph and such a story coming from a reputed writer like Benyamin, people would conclude that there is indeed something wrong happening in this field, and be even more reluctant to donate.
M Padmakumar, director of Joseph, says that the film is just a warning about the corruption in this field. “How do you show the no-smoking ad? By showing a person who smokes and the harm it causes. The film has also been taken with a similar idea. There are films that have shown the good side of organ donation, like Traffic. The public are aware. And Joseph is not an attempt to show the idea of organ donation in a bad light, but to give a warning.”
Benyamin says that the IMA should be able to see fiction as fiction and life as life - as two different worlds. “But there are problems happening in the medical world, the doctor himself had agreed so in his Facebook post. As a writer I feel responsible to tell the society to be cautious," he says.