Thursday, September 22, 2011

Record-setting numbers of organ donors sign up in Michigan

I am pleased to publish this guest post by Emily Matthews.
A record-setting 44,101 people signed up to become organ donors in the state of Michigan during the month of August 2011. That was an increase of over 10,000 compared to August 2010. The highest percentage of sign ups, 39%, were in Isabella County. August was the fourth month in row this year to see a double digit increase.

Credit for this significant increase in organ donors goes to Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. You don’t have to be rushing to find a masters degree in public health to know what the secret was to their success: outreach. In April 2011, Johnson initiated the Restart the Heart campaign, which encourages all visitors to a Secretary of State branch to become organ donors. In Michigan, the motor vehicle department, voter registration and election services, licensing for auto mechanics and dealerships and certification for notaries public are all administered by the Secretary of State. All offices that provide these services are Secretary of State branches.

Under the Restart the Heart campaign, posters about joining the registry are on display in Secretary of State branch offices, and employees encourage all customers to become organ donors. Johnson has also pushed for including organ donation reminders on forms such as drivers license applications and voter registration papers, and for the creation of a committee to further promote organ donation. The Secretary of State website includes a link to Michigan’s organ donor registry and frequently asked question regarding organ donation.

The Restart the Heart campaign has received strong public support. A recent poll of readers of the Michigan news website showed that 67% had registered as organ donors and another 15% intended to do so. If the site’s readers reflect the makeup of the general population, over 90% of Michigan residents may be registered organ donors by the end of 2011.

Education appears to be a key factor in potential donors’ willingness to register. Many popularly held myths make people unwilling to donate, or lead people to believe they cannot. These myths include being too old or too young, that doctors will make less effort to save the lives of registered organ donors and that it is against religious beliefs.

In reality, age is not a barrier. Even people in their seventies and eighties may successfully donate organs in some cases, and those without viable organs can usually donate tissue. Minors may register as donors with parental consent. Doctors give equal effort to saving patients’ lives whether or not the patient has registered as a donor. Finally, the majority of religions have no prohibition on organ transplants. Part of the effort in Michigan includes debunking these myths.

In Michigan, spreading the word, educating potential donors and making the sign up process a natural part of doing personal business has greatly increased the pool of donors. Each donor reaches an average of eight patients, making the potential lives saved about eight times the number of donors. Similar efforts could save as many lives nationwide and around the world.

About the author:
Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

“You Have the Power to Donate Life – Sign-up today! to become an organ and tissue donor
Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
New Zealand, register at Organ Donation New Zealand
South Africa,
United States,
United Kingdom, register at NHS 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

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