What is organ donation?

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Many people suffer because they are in need of an organ transplant, but there are few organ donors. Across the USA there are many people currently on waiting lists in desperate need of an organ transplant. Many of these people will not receive an organ transplants due to the low quantity of donors and high demand for organs. People should automatically be registered organ donors until they state they do not wish to be.

Under the current law people choose to become an organ donor either by completing a donor card or ticking a box on their driving licence application. People may not make their wishes clear to family members and if a donor card or licence, indicating the choice of organ donation, is not available then the opportunity for donation may be missed. Waiting lists for organs continue to grow and lives are lost because of limited availability of hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and intestines Whilst someone in need of a liver or kidney may be the recipient of part of a liver or a kidney from a living organ donors, the number of organs available for transplant is very limited.

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Presumed-consent organ donation could prevent the needles suffering or loss of life of many people. In countries like the United States, which do not mandate organ donation (unless it is to ensure that the wishes of those who do not want to donate their organs after their death be followed), there is an ongoing shortfall of organs available for donation. As of October 2014, there were nearly 124,000 persons waiting for organs or tissues, whereas only 8,279 people donated organs or tissues between January and July of 2014. About 21 people die each day in the United States while waiting for a donated organ. Rebecca J Frey and James E. Waun The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers Vol. 4. 2nd ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2015. P1590-1593. (Library Source)

Seeking remedies for the shortfall of organs has also involved identifying and attempting to alter attitudes and role behavior of physicians and nurses. In Western Europe, serious attention has been given to the use of “presumed consent” or “opting out” as a way to increase the number of cadaveric organs. This is a system that legally allows the use of a deceased patient’s organs for transplantation, unless the patient had formally registered the desire not to be a donor. This system has resulted in notable increases in organ procurement rates in a number of European countries. There is evidence, however, that if the “opting out” system requires the next of kin to be informed about organ removal from their dead relative before it is done, physicians may be less inclined to initiate the procurement process and families more likely to object to the donation.

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