Friday, June 20, 2008

Senior Lookout: More should consider organ donation

The need for organ donors is urgent. This article notes that not enough people are saying "yes" to organ donation when renewing their driver's licenses. In Ontario where I live, someone dies every 3 days while on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Anne Springer writes a compelling story here and we need more people like her to help spread the word.

From the Gloucester Daily Times in Massachusetts:

By Anne Springer

Special to the Times

It's a simple question that's posed to every Massachusetts driver each time they renew a driver's license. "Would you like to be an organ donor?"

Not enough say yes.

In the United States, nearly 85,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant that could save their lives. That statistic, however, does not include thousands more people who are not yet "sick enough" to have been listed on a formal waiting list. Because of the lack of availability of organs, many of those people will never attain a score that would even place them on a waiting list, and will die before they ever get a chance for an organ, perhaps because they were too sick by the time they met all criteria to survive the operation, or because some complication of their illness took them.

Getting an organ is not a simple case of being taken in some kind of order, although sometimes children are assigned extra points in the process.

This, from The Gift of a Lifetime web page, should help people understand what the process consists of: "Contrary to popular belief, waiting on the list for a transplant is not like taking a number at the deli counter and waiting for your turn to order. In some respects, even the word 'list' is misleading; the list is really a giant pool of patients. There is no ranking or patient order until there is a donor, because each donor's blood type, size and genetic characteristics are different. Therefore, when a donor is entered into the national computer system, the patients that match that donor, and therefore the 'list,' is different each time."

Also, depending on a patient's changing status, certain medical scores may place them higher or lower in rank even from one day to the next.

There are many myths surrounding organ donation. Some people fear that their bodies would be mutilated to obtain the organs, which is not the case. A donor is treated with the utmost respect, and the procedures are carried out with the same skills as are used with any surgery.

Some people believe that their religion might interfere, but all major religions in the United States support organ donation. Some people fear that hospitals or doctors might want to hasten their death to provide life for someone else. That is never the case. All efforts are made to save victims before organ donation is considered.

Others fear that their families would be offended or even prevent the donation. In Massachusetts, family permission is not needed for someone to become an organ donor. If you sign a donor card or have the information placed on your driver's license, your wishes are honored.

Considering that there are, on average, more than 36,000 motor vehicle deaths each year in the United States, it's hard for those families who are waiting for a loved one to get the gift of life to see many of those organs being lost. When you hear from donor families, often the one thing they are most grateful for is that their loved one saved another person's life.

It's true that not everyone can donate, but that's usually because of an illness or condition that might affect a recipient. And everyone can support organ donation by giving to charities that support recipients – after-care, for example, is expensive and must be maintained for life.

Today, when you are busy living life, greeting your co-workers, hugging a child, preparing for a birthday party, or making an ice tea for your husband out mowing the lawn, some of us are going about those daily activities, too, but always with the knowledge that our loved one is waiting and may not have enough time.

I am one of those people. My fiancé is waiting for a liver that he may never get. If everyone were to sign a donor card today, his odds would go up, and so, too, would the odds of every man, woman, and child who is in need of a gift of life.

To learn more about organ donation, please visit or the New England Organ Bank site at New England Organ Bank. There you can request an organ donation card and not have to wait until your next license renewal.

Please, for those who are waiting, do it today.

Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., which serves Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham. Its mission is to provide and coordinate services to elders, enabling them to live independently and remain part of their community.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network
For other Canadian provinces click here

In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov

Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through cornea and tissue donation

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