More than 120,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant. On average, 18 of those people will die each day while waiting for a transplant. And the list grows every day. According to the Health and Human Services website, someone is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
This proliferation of organ transplants didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the history of organ transplantation in the United States spans a period of close to 60 years. The first successful living-related transplant was completed in 1954. And the first successful transplant from a deceased donor was accomplished in 1962. In the years since, organ transplants have become the accepted treatment for end-stage organ failure. Continued advances in medicine have made more complicated organ transplants possible. As the list of transplantable organs grow, so too does the shortage of organs donated for transplantation. This shortage is the focus of National Donor Day, a time that we can all reflect on the extreme shortage of available organs for donation and the need for people to become organ donors.
Organ donation begins when an individual makes the decision to sign up to become an organ donor. A national computer network, maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, links all donors and transplant candidates. When an organ donor is identified, the health care facility will access the organ matching system, enter the donor’s information, and run the program for a potential match. The transplant surgeon for the top matched potential recipient is contacted. This surgeon will make the final decision about whether the organ will be suitable for the recipient.
Contrary to what some believe, social status is not a factor when making the decision about allocation of organs. Organs are distributed strictly on the basis of need. Once blood and tissue typing are completed to find an appropriate match, organs are allocated based on medical need and time spent on the waiting list. It is against the law to accept payment in exchange of an organ.
Don’t let age or financial worry hold you back. A person is never too young or too old to donate their organs and there is no costs to donors or their families. Registration is easy and only takes a few minutes to complete. Every donor has the ability to offer the “Gift of Life” to up to eight individuals. There are currently over 100 million people in the United States registered as an organ donor. Do you want to be one of them? Check out the Transplant Living page on the UNOS website for more information.