By Alex Johnson
Every sixteen minutes, a United States resident is added to the organ transplant waiting list. There are thousands of people waiting to receive organs, but only about 2,000 people each year receive the precious, life-saving organs they need.
Who Needs an Organ Transplant
When organs are failing, a transplant can be considered for an extreme method of treatment. A transplant is usually only used as a last resort and is only considered after all other treatment options have been exhausted. Patients waiting to receive an organ should also be willing to receive a transplant and the procedure must be deemed a necessary and viable option.
Conditions such as heart disease, kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and some lung disorders can possibly be treated through organ transplantation. Some lung issues, such as mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure, cannot be treated by organ transplantation.
Generally, donated organs come from a deceased donor who has experienced brain death and is being kept alive by artificial life support systems. When someone experiences a brain death, they have no brain activity; however, their body is still functioning and organs are still healthy. Once a person is deceased, with no blood flowing through the body, the organs are no longer viable and cannot be used for a transplant. The organs of deceased donors are usually used for heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. Tissues that can be donated include skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves.
Living donors can also be used, but only for certain types of transplants, such as a kidney or liver transplants. This is because people are born with an extra kidney and livers are regenerative. Living donors are typically close friends or family of the organ recipient who are willing to donate and are considered to be a donor match.
The Nationwide Organ Distribution Process
People who need to receive an organ transplant from a deceased donor must be registered by their physician to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The OPTN is operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS maintains a database of people who are waiting for an organ transplant. The organization establishes and maintains the procedures for deciding the criteria people must meet in order to receive a transplant. The board, comprised of transplant physicians, transplant patients, and organ donors, decides who will receive an organ.
Unfortunately, the demand for organs is much greater than the actual supply. Many people are registered with OPTN and UNOS for months, even years, before a suitable transplant becomes available. For many, this will never take place.
How to Become an Organ Donor
If people would like to donate their organs when they die, they should inform their families of their wishes. The family of the donor makes the final decision as to whether organs should be donated, so it is important to make your wishes known, before it is too late. In most states, you can choose the Organ Donor designation for placement on your Driver’s License. Check with your state for the rules.
Organ donation organizations are widely available and can be contacted if there are any questions or concerns about becoming an organ donor.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario at Trillium Gift of Life Network NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You