April is Donate Life Month . . . the time of year when we focus special attention on the gift of life that nearly every person can provide. It’s also a timely opportunity to dispel some myths, share some facts and provide some information about the organ donation process. As one example, did you know that a single organ donor can save up to 8 lives through his or her gift? Kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs. In 2019, nearly 60% of all transplants were kidneys. As in the case of every previous year, 2019 was a record-setter with just under 40,000 transplants in the United States.
Unfortunately, the wait list continues to be unbearably high as well. In March 2020, approximately 112,000 people were waiting to receive a transplant. By comparison, two decades ago, the wait list was at just over 23,000. Every 10 minutes another US citizen is added to the transplant list. Every day on average, 20 people pass away while waiting for a transplant. With this reality as a backdrop, let’s share some positive information from OrganDonor.gov and the US Department of Health & Human Services.
If you have a medical condition, you are still eligible to donate an organ. Anyone, regardless of health history can sign up to be a donor. The transplant team at the time of a person’s passing, decides whether an individual’s condition makes donations possible. With rare exceptions, organs and tissues can be donated, even from patients with cancer, blood diseases or infections.
There is no age limit to be an organ donor. As noted above, the health and conditions of the donor’s organs are the determining factor.
Rich & famous people don’t get to cut to the “front of the line.” A national database and computer program uses a variety of factors to determine how donors and recipients are matched. These considerations include blood type, time spent on the wait list, geographic locations and state of health of the recipient candidate. Ethnicity, financial status and fame are never factors.
There isn’t a financial cost for donating organs. That’s an urban myth, that individuals or their estates need to pay a processing fee of some sort. Costs for donations are paid for by the recipient, usually through insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. It’s also against the law to sell organs on the black market — that’s another misnomer.
The OrganDonor.gov website has more facts and myths about organ donation. Next week, we’ll talk more about how the actual organ donation registration process takes place.