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Are You an Organ Donor?

Published: June 25, 2010

The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month. The number of patients now on the waiting list is available at Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Minorities overall have a particularly high need for organ transplants because some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver are found more frequently in racial and ethnic minority populations than in the general population. For example, African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions that can damage the kidneys. Native Americans are four times more likely than Whites to suffer from diabetes. Some of these conditions that can result in organ failure are best treated through transplantation, and others can only be treated by this life-saving procedure.  In addition, similar blood type is essential in matching donors to recipients. Because certain blood types are more common in ethnic minority populations, increasing the number of minority donors can increase the frequency of minority transplants.

There are no costs to your family for your donation. Costs related to donation are paid by the recipient, usually through insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Electing to become an organ donor will NOT affect the quality of medical care you receive at the hospitals. The medical team trying to save your life is separate from the transplant team. Every effort is made to save your life before donation is considered.

What can be donated? Organs: heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines. Tissue: cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels, connective tissue, bone marrow/stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).

To learn more about donating bone marrow or a cord blood unit, visit:
http://bloodcell.transplant.hrsa.gov/DONOR/Donating/index.html and http://bloodcell.transplant.hrsa.gov/CORD/Options/Donating/index.html

Even if you sign a donor card, it is essential that your family knows your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur.

If you wish to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact your local organ procurement organization (OPO). The OPO can advise you of specific local procedures, such as joining donor registries that are available to residents in your area.
Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people. Giving the “Gift of Life” may lighten the grief of the donor’s own family. Many donor families say that knowing other lives have been saved helps them cope with their tragic loss.

Get Started

Register with your state donor registry, if available.

Designate your decision on your driver’s license.

Sign a donor card and carry it with you. Download a page of eight donor cards that you may print and sign.

Order a free donor card that will be mailed to you.

Talk to your family. To help your family understand and carry out your wishes, sit down with your loved ones and tell them about your decision to be an organ and tissue donor. They can serve as your advocate and may be asked to give consent for donation or provide information to the transplant team.

To learn more. visit www.organdonor.gov

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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  • Tasha Mullins

    I believe that organ donation is extremely important. I am a kidney transplant patient. My best friend from 7th grade donated her kidney to me in 2006. It is 2010, and the both of us are doing wonderful. The kidney is healthy and I am very thankful that she saved my life. Her donating a kidney for me gave me a second chance at life. I feel very blessed because I can be here for my daughter. A true blessing!

  • saint4God

    Done. I’d been thinking about this the last few years and kept forgetting to put in the information. The links were easy to follow, the online form quick to fill out.