Skin Donation – What It Means & How It Happens

Indian Society has been aware of eye donation after death for several decades. But Skin Donation is a relatively newer concept. It is a donation that anyone can make after their deaths, which can save the lives of thousands of people and offer them a much better quality of life.

Skin donation, can be made AFTER cardiac death. (Organ donation can only happen if the person has been declared brain dead).

Cardiac death is when the heart stops beating. Brain Death (Put hyperlink to What Is Organ Donation? What is Brain Death?) is when the brain dies but the deceased keeps breathing with the help of a ventilator, and the heart and other organs are kept alive artificially. This can happen only in a hospital under certain conditions. A person can donate their organs only in the case of brain death, BUT they can donate their eyes and skin even when they suffer a cardiac death.

Who needs skin?
It is estimated that more that 7 million people in India suffer from burn injuries every year. 80% of these are women and children. It is the second largest group of injuries after road accidents. Out of the 10% of these which are life threatening, around 50% succumb to their injuries. Nearly 1 to 1.5 lakh people get crippled and require multiple surgeries and prolonged rehabilitation in India every year.

A burn wound is probably the most devastating of all the wounds – physically, psychologically, socially and economically. Early burn wound closure is crucial for survival of patients with large burn wounds. An infected burn wound which leads to systemic sepsis is the single most major cause of death in burn patients – especially in India.

Why is skin donation so important?
Our skin is the largest human organ. It acts as a shield to protect us from heat and cold, as well as environmental impacts such as chemicals, the sun’s UV-radiation and bacteria.

Normally, our skin would mend itself from the daily wear and tear. But when the skin gets badly burned or damaged, it’s unable to repair itself without help. For patients with severe burn injuries, one way to promote healing is by covering the wound with Allografts – skin from an organ donor. Skin is needed to prevent infections, decrease pain and provide protection, and help faster healing and save lives.

If the burnt area is not immediately covered with some skin substitutes, then patients are prone to infection, fluid loss and ultimately death.

In case of smaller percentage of burns, skin from the un-burnt area of the patient is taken out and put on the burn wound to cover it. But when burns percentage is more than 40% to 50%, then the patient’s own skin is not available to cover the burn wound. In that scenario we need some skin substitutes. In emergencies when skin is not available, often relatives of patients offer their own skin, as a live donor.

It is said that skin is the best substitute for skin. Thus, Skin donated after death is the best and cheapest substitute compared to artificial skin substitutes.

Such skin is a temporary dressing but is vitally important as it helps in patient’s own skin to regenerate. 80% of such patients can be saved if we have enough skin in skin banks. This is why skin donation is so vital. Donating your skin after your death, instead of burning or burying your body would be a great service to millions who are suffering. Watch the film below for more information.