Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UK may move registered organ donors up the transplant waiting list

How should organ donation rates be increased in the United Kingdom? The Nuffield Council on Bioethics in London is asking the public what they think about various options. Among the options presented is giving priority for transplants to people who sign up to donate their organs when they die.

Ian Cowie writes about possible solutions to the United Kingdom's organ shortage in the Telegraph:
...offering donors priority status in the event that they may need a transplant in future looks like a reasonable compromise which could ease the current problem. NHS reliance on public altruism has failed. When demand vastly exceeds supply it may be time to consider economics as well as ethics.

Adam Smith was among the first to notice that one motivation you can always rely on is self-interest. In his classic The Wealth of Nations he observed: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
Registered organ donors in the United States can get preferred access to donated organs by joining LifeSharers. Registered organ donors in New Zealand can do the same thing. In Israel, if you and your family members get preferred access to donated organs if you sign up to donate your organs after you die.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Yorkers find organ donation registration "off-putting"

Only 13% of adults in the state of New York are registered organ donors, according to a story in the New York Times. Why is the registration rate so low? According to the story, it's because New Yorkers can't register on the internet and because they have to decide which organs and tissues they want to donate. Having to decide whether to donate your bone and connective tissue, heart with connective tissue, and pancreas with iliac vessels is "off-putting", according to the New York Times.

I wonder how many New York adults would find dying waiting for an organ transplant "off-putting". Probably a whole lot more than 13% of them.

LifeSharers has over 750 members in New York. New Yorkers (and everyone else in the United States) are welcome to join LifeSharers at www.lifesharers.org/enroll.aspx. Members get preferred access to the organs of other members, so they get a chance to help themselves while helping others.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Organ shortage increase fueled by unwillingness to donate

According to a new survey by Donate Life America 43% 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% 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 www.lifesharers.org 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.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Transplantable kidneys infected with hepatitis C are being wasted

Hundreds of transplantable kidneys from people who have hepatitis C are thrown away every year in the United States, according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation. Escience News reports on the study, as does US News & World Report.

Some transplant centers give kidneys from hepatitis C patients to other patients who have hepatitis C. Recipients of these kidneys have a slightly lower survival rates than do patients who receive infection-free kidneys. The difference in 1-year survival is 1%, and the difference in 3-year survival is 2%. But the wait for an infection-free kidney is over a year longer, and the risk of death during that extra year is 10% to 15%. This more than offsets the lower survival rates from infected kidneys.

This is further proof that everyone can sign up to donate their organs when they die. Surgeons are also transplanting organs from people who had cancer and HIV. This is why LifeSharers doesn't exclude anyone from joining. No one will know if your organs are transplantable until you die. The surgeons will figure it out when the time comes. If someone tells you that you can't donate your organs, they are mistaken.

If you haven't already done so, please join LifeSharers. It's free. You can save several lives. One of them might be your own, because your membership gives you preferred access to the organs of other members.

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