Monday, May 17, 2010

Deceased organ donation, misc. links

Number of Americans willing to donate organs rises, but still not keeping pace with need: Survey reveals pervasive donation myths "The online survey of 5,100 U.S. adults, which was supported by Astellas Pharma US, Inc., also uncovered some pervasive myths regarding donation. For example, the majority (52 percent) of respondents were open to the idea that doctors may not try as hard to save their lives if their wish to be organ donors is known, and 61 percent are open to the idea that it is possible for a brain dead person to recover from his or her injuries. In addition, 8 percent believe that organ or tissue donation is against their religion."
"Additional survey findings include: More than three-fourths of adults (78 percent) correctly realize there are more people who need organ transplants in the U.S. than the number of donated organs available. 61 percent of adults would donate the organs or tissue of a family member if they died suddenly without indicating their wishes. The number of African Americans who wish to donate all their organs and tissue has increased to 41 percent versus 31 percent in 2009 – encouraging news as African Americans comprise nearly 35 percent of the national kidney transplant waiting list."

Why New Yorkers Don’t Donate Organs. Susan Dominus writes in the NY Times: "When I started thinking about writing about New York State’s exceptionally low number of registered organ donors — 13 percent of people 18 and older — I remembered that I had never signed up on the official registry to designate myself a donor. So I went online, assuming I would be able to click somewhere quickly, and was delighted at the prospect. ...
"Except that it was nowhere near as easy as getting broccoli delivered to my door. I had to print out a form and mail it....What, specifically, did I want to donate, it wanted to know: Bone and connective tissue? Heart with connective tissue? Pancreas with iliac vessels? ...
"Were I not writing about the subject, I would quite likely have avoided it forever — which puts me in good (or, I should say, equally flawed) company, said Elaine Berg, president of the New York Organ Donor Network. In her opinion, the snail-mail process is a major barrier to increasing New York’s low rate of registration. All but 5 of the 49 states that have organ donor registries — Vermont is the holdout — allow for an electronic signature. That enumerated list of donation options is another hurdle. “It even turns me off,” Ms. Berg said. “It becomes a visual.” Only four states rank lower than New York on the recently released national report card from Donate Life America, a national advocacy group. ...
"But the department maintains that the enumerated list is the best way to meet the requirements of the legislation governing the registry, which was established in 2000 but became binding in 2008. The law states that “the registry shall provide persons enrolled the opportunity to specify which organs and tissues they want to donate.” So let them, Ms. Berg said. As many other states do, give would-be donors a blank space in which they can specify, or give them two options: “All” and “Everything except (blank).” As a journalist, I’m all for full disclosure, except for full disclosure about the gory details of a gesture I’d like to make regarding my organs in the event that I end up brain-dead on a respirator. It’s amazing how a matter of marketing can mean so much for a matter of life and death. In the downstate region of New York, which includes the city, Long Island and the five counties immediately north of the city, Ms. Berg said, 8,000 people are waiting for organs. In the downstate region, about 600 people die a year under circumstances conducive to organ donation (the typical qualifying donor is a middle-aged stroke victim); in these emergency circumstances, New York has around a 50 percent consent rate — much better than the 13 percent on the official registry, but still below the 67 percent rate nationally. And yet cynicism plays in: New Yorkers are more likely than the average American to think doctors put less effort into saving the lives of organ donors, Donate Life America reports. "

Should Laws Push for Organ Donation? discussion and commentary of a proposed NY law to shift to presumed consent. Interesting followup discussion by Alex Tabarrok at MR: Presumed Consent and Organ Donation


Unknown said...

According to a new survey by Donate Life America 43 percent of people are undecided, reluctant or do not wish to have their organs and tissue donated after their deaths. Is this because Americans don't know there is an organ shortage? No. The survey also reports that 78 percent realize there are more people who need organ transplants in the U.S. than the number of donated organs available.

Meanwhile, the number of people who need transplants keeps growing. As of April 1, 2010, there were over 106,700 people on the national transplant waiting list. More than half of these people will die before they get a transplant, while Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

Just about every single one of the 43% of Americans who aren't willing to register as organ donors would accept an organ transplant if they needed one to live. As long as we let non-donors jump to the front of the waiting list when they need transplants we'll always have an organ shortage.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

Giving organs first to organ donors will save more lives by convincing more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Jonathan Weinstein said...

"the majority (52 percent) of respondents were open to the idea that doctors may not try as hard to save their lives if their wish to be organ donors is known"

This is the kind of question that I don't think you can ask without distorting the respondent's view. Especially when the scenario involved is a frightening one such as this, seeing the question makes you think of it as a legitimate concern, or even simply makes you aware of a possibility you hadn't thought of before. Like "This is an opinion poll: Do you believe Candidate X had a child out of wedlock?"