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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 286-288

Philanthropist and altruistic organ donor: Kochouseph Chittilappilly

1 Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Organ Transplant, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
2 Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Organ Transplant, Amrita institute of Medical Sciences, Cochin, Kerala, India

Date of Submission13-Aug-2021
Date of Decision13-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance14-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Dinesh Balakrishnan
Department of GI and Solid Organ Transplant Surgery, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_78_21

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How to cite this article:
Dhar P, Balakrishnan D. Philanthropist and altruistic organ donor: Kochouseph Chittilappilly. J Med Evid 2021;2:286-8

How to cite this URL:
Dhar P, Balakrishnan D. Philanthropist and altruistic organ donor: Kochouseph Chittilappilly. J Med Evid [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 10];2:286-8. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2021/2/3/286/333958

Worldwide there is a big gap between those needing organ transplants because of end-stage organ failure and the number of available organs. In India, this deficit is gigantic – for instance against an estimated requirement of up to 2 lakh kidney transplants, only 8000 happen annually. Our organ donation rates are among the lowest in the world (0.65/million population).[1] Since the donation from dying donors cannot meet the demand, most of the transplant operations done are from living donors in India. This disparity unfortunately spawned organ trafficking, which is illegal, yet frequently raises its ugly head, thriving intermittently. However, it also was an opportunity for a rare breed of humans to show their true mettle.

Forbes listed Billionaire Kochouseph Chittilappilly (KC) hailing from the southern state of Kerala is one such inspiring personality who was not content merely with monetary help to poor patients alone. He actually gave the ultimate gift of near Shakespearean proportions – figuratively a pound of his own flesh! And in the process also started a kidney chain for those who did not have access to a compatible donor.

At the age of 27, leaving a supervisory job in Thiruvananthapuram, with one lakh rupees founded the V guard industries which soon grew into the largest selling voltage stabiliser brand in the country. At present, the ubiquitous unidentified flying object-shaped, round stabiliser is only a fraction of the extended business involving electronics appliances, amusement parks, apparel and property development.

An editorial team from the Journal of Medical Evidence (JME) interviewed him to learn about how his medical philanthropic activities commenced and what drove him to gift a part of his body to an unknown person.

A humble and unassuming personality but with deep convictions, he endears himself almost instantly with his soft voice and a gentle genuine smile.

The Journal of Medical Evidence: Tell us about the motivation for the donation especially for an unknown person?

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

We have a charitable Foundation called the KC Foundation which provides for medical benefits to below poverty line patients. Here, we get a variety of applications and requests for dialysis and transplants which were slowly increasing over time. I took a special interest in these, as these problems had not been seen or heard of, earlier, in my younger days. I soon realised that there was a pattern of reluctance to donate a kidney even by close family members, even as the learned doctors were saying that there is no major problem in donating one of your kidneys. Especially as they test thoroughly before declaring anyone reasonably fit to donate. So realising that one could donate, if one is healthy, I started wondering why I should not donate one of my kidneys. Around that time, one of my distant relatives had a similar problem of renal failure but unfortunately suffered a lot and eventually succumbed to unrelated secondary infection. So that sort of crystallised my plan to get ready to donate provided I was declared physically fit. By the time, I had made up my mind to donate, there were no close or distant relatives who were suffering from renal failure or in need of a kidney. Hence, I decided to donate anyway.

The Journal of Medical Evidence: So How did the thought of a kidney chain actually evolve

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

Initially, it was a simple thought of donation. Then, I met a priest, Father Davis Chiramel – who was popular for his social activities for poor people. He had also donated his kidney a couple of years earlier altruistically and thanks to his familiarity with the whole process, he directed me to a nephrologist who arranged to test extensively over almost 2 months during which I felt, I was reaching closer to my goal. Although many friends who heard about me or saw me visiting the Lakeshore hospital several times thought I was unwell and undergoing some treatment!

Soon, the issue emerged as to, who would receive the donation! Hence, I requested Father Chiramel for suggestions and he identified a needy, relatively young, 42-year-old truck driver whose wife was willing to donate but the blood group was not compatible. Then, the thought emerged that this lady could donate for somebody else in a similar situation without a matching donor. Moreover, she did donate about 3 months later for a young bachelor whose mother further donated forward to someone else and this rotation followed four times more, thus resulting in the chain! (JME: Wow!).

The Journal of Medical Evidence: Was there any reluctance from the family?

Even though doctors say that it is completely safe to donate; very few doctors have themselves actually become donors! Many people are hesitant even about blood donations, which are known to be completely safe! So, how did you overcome those obstacles?

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

Not just Sheila, my wife, but other close relatives also started objecting as to how I could possibly donate an organ. Their logic was that if I wanted to help someone I could offer as much money as was needed, why take the risk of surgery. However, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. By this time, I had just crossed 60 and decided that this is probably the time that I could actually take those risks – both the sons had become active in business, all were settled, they had got married! Hence, I hardened my stand, to stand by the decision to donate.

The Journal of Medical Evidence

Knowing you to be gentle and soft spoken cannot believe that you actually managed to push your way through! It is indeed very inspiring for others who may want to emulate and have been hesitating on the fence! Shifting tracks, what are thoughts on the recent multitude of problems wracking the state such as the impending floods, the pandemic, environmental disturbances which should induce change but was not happening, as a race, we did not seem to be learning anything as some of these were manmade contributions to the tragedies.

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

I feel there are complex ramifications – the major issue being our excess population. I think that it is pointless to compare ourselves with Norway and Finland where the population was much less! Even Canada had about 3.5 crores population which is comparable to that of Kerala at a miniscule proportion of its size! In addition, we have deterioration of ethical standards, despite the excellent work done by groups such as the Tatas, Narayan Moorthy, Azim Premji and others. Despite education, an awareness of ecological sensitivity is lacking. But fortunately, things are changing and it was gradually becoming a priority. Still, lots more indeed, needs to be done to instill the sense and core of sustainability in each and every individual!

The Journal of Medical Evidence: Can you elaborate on the role of the KC Foundation in fulfilling corporate social responsibility.

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

The entity is a charitable enterprise which had principally three routes to support the underprivileged – the first, medical issues, the second, thrust was in the education sector and finally, housing for the homeless which is done principally within my state of Kerala which is industrially backward with relatively fewer chances for the corporate entities to involve in philanthropy.

The Journal of Medical Evidence: Tell us about how your business started! How did the vagaries of voltage in the country lead to the ubiquitous UFO-like V-guard stabiliser? Any message for younger potential entrepreneurs.

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

I had been technologically savvy but was handicapped in public relations or marketing etc.! Hence, not being a topper, I quelled my ambition of joining as a scientist in ISRO or BARC which I would have loved to do! So I started as an entrepreneur initially as an alternative to a salaried job. I started by making the stabilisers which was a better design than was available at that time. As it became popular even in other states, we gradually diversified into other goods and units were opened elsewhere – in many of the faraway Himalayan states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim – wherever incentivisation was available for backward area tax benefits. It took more than four decades to reach where we are. Charitable activities had commenced rather late, when the realisation struck of the moral responsibility of giving back to society in the past 20 years or so!

I would like to stress that it is not mandatory to be an IIT rank holder or an IIM graduate alone or genius to be an entrepreneur – you need to learn additional faculties and juggling skills of finance, marketing, advertising and managing personnel. I suggest that the young entrepreneurs should initially work on the floor for 3–4 years for practical knowledge rather than academics alone. Otherwise, there is a lot of attrition to the tune of 90%, especially in the small-scale sector.

I also feel that passion in the field of interest made all the burden of hard work bearable. A mother doing all the hard work of raising children does not have a single thought or tiredness through every task she does because of the maternal pleasure making all this a delight rather than a chore! (JME – What a beautiful parallel drawn!).

On changing times, I think that even though it appears that things may be easier now with availability of free information, the same is available to all others, leading to higher competition too! In the fast-moving treadmill of the world now, there may be little space to take rest!

The Journal of Medical Evidence: Despite being on the Forbes' list, why did you choose to part with a majority of your wealth.

Kochouseph Chittilappilly

Probably, my rural background, having seen poverty around and parents helping others inculcated the sense of social responsibility. I feel that the feelings should come from within to be really effective rather than merely an enforced 2% by the government, which could still be fudged if the intent was not there! I am extremely happy, that so many of the corporates doing meaningful community work, acted as a positive role model and appear to be genuinely inspiring others! A happy change this country desperately needs indeed! Even in Kerala, many corporates are actively involved in social activities. I feel a lot more needs to be done to bridge the gap with the have nots since the wide disparity prevented true development from being achieved!

I also feel that many of our problems could be solved if all responsible citizens participated in local issues (e.g., even at the residents welfare association level) rather than merely blaming politicians all the time. Even recalcitrant issues like loss of wetlands or solid waste management for instance can begin to be sorted out if we all take an interest!

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Electrocin reference from Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Organ_donation_in_India.  Back to cited text no. 1


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