Support the Cause: Organ Donation
“More than 114,000 men, women, and children are waiting for organs for transplantation in the United States. Every 10 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organs. On average, 18 people die every day because of the lack of donated organs” (A Donate Life Organization). As an organ donor, one person can save the lives of up to eight people and improve the lives of about 50 people! (A Donate Life Organization) Education about organ donation is needed in our communities because there are a hundreds of thousands of people in need of transplants and an even greater population of eligible donors who are not even registered as organ donors.
“Education about organ donation and diabetes awareness is needed in our communities. If more people become organ donors, the wait time would be reduced. I urge everyone to test for diabetes and to become an organ donor simply by marking it on your drivers’ license, on a notarized note in wallet, or on your health directive” (Ortega). A woman named Vangeline Ortega knows first-hand the need for more organ donors. Ortega, at the age of 24 had her kidney fail and went through dialysis for eight years before she received her first kidney transplant. Dialysis is a procedure where a filter machine takes the place of a real kidney three days a week, four hours at a time. This artificial kidney cleanses the blood of toxins and excess water, in order to allow better breathing and more energy. “I believe I have mastered the art of living on dialysis,” says Vangeline Ortega (Ortega). This is just one case of a person who was in need of a transplant, but there are many more people going through the same process of living on machines waiting and hoping for an organ to be donated to them.
|Fig. 1. Types of Organs that can be Donated|
Today, there is an average wait of five years on a transplant waiting list (A Donate Life Organization). In 2011, in the United States, there were a total of 14,145 organ donors, compared to the 114,000 people in need of organ donors (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network). The types of organs that can be donated include eyes/corneas, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, skin, bone, tendons, femoral and saphenous veins, intestines, liver, heart and heart valves (A Donate LifeOrganization). Of the 114,000 people waiting for an organ transplant; more than 92,000 await kidneys, more than 16,000 need livers, and more than 3,000 need hearts. Also needed are: 1,200 pancreases, 1,600 lungs, 200 intestines, and 2,000 kidneys/ pancreases for double organ transplants (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network). Organ donations can be made from the living and the deceased. The organs you can donate as a living donor consist of kidneys, a portion of the liver, a lobe of a lung, a portion of the intestine, and in some rare instances, a portion of the pancreas (A Donate Life Organization). In 2011, there were 8,126 deceased organ donors in the United States. This accounted for roughly 79 percent of the total transplant procedures in 2011. In the same year there were 6,019 living donors (Organ Procurement and Transplant Network). The success rate for organ transplants is between 80 and 90 percent. At the end of 2006, 173,339 people in the United States were living with functioning transplanted organs (2008 OPTN/SRTR Annual Report).
There are many reasons to be an organ donor. For those dealing with a loss, it might help the family overcome grief, knowing that they were able to help save someone else’s life. Being an organ donor is about helping others; which could mean helping someone improve the quality of their living, for example, by donating a kidney to someone relying on kidney dialysis, or donating, so the recipient can save money on hospital expenses. Donating bodies to provide material for medical research, in order to find cures and treatments is also a very impactful choice (Gagan, Dhillon). On the other side, many people are against being organ donors for reasons such as problems that can arise from surgery, like infection. Other reasons consist of future health issues; when one donates a kidney, experiences kidney failure, and becomes a patient on the waiting list for a new kidney. Other people are against being organ donors because they want to be buried with all their organs. Many people chose not to be organ donors because of the financial expenses that surgery entails. All major religions support organ donations, but there are a couple of religions that are against this practice such as the Shinto religion of Japan and the Chinese folk religion. Lastly, people have issues with not being able to choose the recipient of their organ donation (A Donate Life Organization).
The procedures for organ donations have greatly improved since the first successful operation in 1869, which was a skin transplant. 37 years later in 1906, the first successful cornea transplant took place. In 1954, transplant operations advanced greatly with the first kidney transplant; the first operation was a situation where a living donor gifted a kidney to their twin. In the following years, other organs were introduced to transplant operations. The first pancreas operation was in 1966, heart and liver transplants were introduced in 1967, and bone marrow operations began in 1968 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Service). As organ transplants transformed and became more popular, organizations developed in order to give encouragement to more people to be organ donors. In 1968, the first organ procurement organization (OPO) was established, as well as the New England Organ Bank based in Boston. As these operations became more and more popular, new hope was established in patients who were in need of organ donations. The expenses of these operations lead to the illegal buying and selling of organs in the black market. In response to this dangerous activity, The National Organ Transplant Act was passed by congress in 1984, prohibiting the selling of human organs. This established the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients to ensure fair and ongoing allocation of donated organs. Grants for the establishment, operation, and expansion of organ procurement organizations were also established (U.S.Department of Health and Human Service). Today, organ procurement organizations thrive off of today’s advanced use in technology and communication. Recently, Facebook’s timeline feature includes a feature that identifies links to organizations and official registries for organ donors (Gagan,Dhillon).
|Fig. 2. Organ Donor Drivers License|
Signing up to be an organ donor is easy. All you have to do is have it stated on your driver’s license. You can also inform your family and doctors about your donation decision, as well as having it stated in your will (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Anyone can be a living donor, as long as they are free from chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. As for deceased donors, there are many concerns about donations interfering with funeral arrangements. Open casket services are possible; bodies are not disfigured during surgery (A Donate LifeOrganization). When someone is donating an organ, the person that the organ goes to is determined by severity of illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type (A Donate LifeOrganization). The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a national computerized waiting list of transplant candidates. The identity of the donor and the recipient are confidential (A Donate Life Organization).
Being an organ donor is a selfless act that can tremendously impact someone else's chance of living a better life. Not only can you safe the life of a person who is relying on an organ donation to continue living, you can impact the lives of numerous people. By registering to be an organ donor after you pass, you can improve the lives of 50 and save the lives of 8, as well as impact the lives of every person who loves the lives of the people you saved. You can find plenty of reasons to deny the responsibility of being an organ donor, but you are denying someone their chance of living a long and happy life. Registering to be an organ donor is simple, it only requires checking a box when updating your license. By educating others about the importance of organ donors, we can inspire more people to become organ donors and improve the lives of more people in need of organ donations.
A Donate Life Organization. “All About Donation.” New York Organ Donor Network. A Donate Life Organization, 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. http://www.donatelifeny.org/about-donation/what-can-be-donated/
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Gagan, Dhillon. “Organ Donation Pros and Cons.” Buzzle, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/organ-donation-pros-and-cons.html
McCarthy M. “USA Consider National Programs to Oversee Human Research.” Lancet, Vol. 357. (2001) : p.1275. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/?verb=sr&csi=154080&sr=HLEAD(US+launches+initiative+to+boost+organ+donations)%2BAND%2BDATE%2BIS%2B2001
Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, United Network for Organ Sharing. “All About Donation.” New York Organ Donor Network. A Donate Life Organization, 17 May. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. http://www.donatelifeny.org/about-donation/data/
Ortega, Vangeline. “Our Stories.” LexisNexis Academic. Twin Cities Daily Planet, 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.lib.iastate.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/?
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Becoming a Donor.” U.S. Government Information on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. http://www.organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. “Timeline of Historical Events Significant Milestones in Organ Donation and Transplantation.” Organdonor.gov, n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. http://organdonor.gov/legislation/timeline.html
Fig. 1. A Donate Life Organization. “All about Donation.” New York Organ Donor Network. A Donate Life Organization, 2012. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. http://www.donatelifeny.org/about-donation/what-can-be-donated/
Fig, 2. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Organ Donation. n.d. Pennsylvania. Organ Donations. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/organ_donor/index.shtml