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Organ Donation - Saves another Life

Organ Donation - Saves another Life

A young, healthy woman collapses with a brain aneurysm. A person sustains deadly injuries in a skiing accident. Horrific tragedies like these happen daily, and for the families and loved ones, there is little consolation. However, from such terrible tragedies arises the possibility of saving another life. This is the gift of organ donation.

Organ donation is an individual choice. No one should feel pressured to pledge oneself to be an organ donor, and no family should feel they must donate the organs of their loved ones. The decision to not donate, though, is sometimes based on misconceptions about the process of organ donation. Some people believe that agreeing to organ donation will cause hospital staff to hasten the death of their loved ones, but the organ donation team and the staff caring for critically injured patients are entirely different. Hospital staff will do everything in their power to save the patients in their care. Organ donation is only presented as an option when death is imminent.

Another misconception about organ donation is that organs can only come from young, healthy individuals. These are the best candidates for organ donation, but even elderly and less healthy people can be organ donors. People who have Hepatitis C, for example, can still donate their organs. The organ donation team and transplant surgeons will evaluate the condition of the donor and the organs and decide whether they can proceed.

Many people don't understand how the organ donation lists work. It's not possible for an individual to "buy" their way onto a list. The waiting list for organ donation is national and is ranked by need. The sole exception that allows people to "jump ahead" on a list is directed donation. This occurs when a donor or the family of a donor specifically requests an organ to be donated to a certain individual.

There is a huge shortage of organ donors. Average wait times for patients listed can vary from a few months for a heart transplant to four or five years or longer for a kidney transplant. All the while, the patient's quality of life deteriorates.

One type of organ donation is actually possible while one is still alive, the donation of a kidney. This can be either a directed donation or the donation can go to a stranger. While few people are willing to undergo major surgery and give up a kidney for the sake of someone they don't know, this is done from time to time.

Following organ donation, the family of the donor will have the opportunity to communicate with the recipients of the organs if they desire. This is not a required step of the process and many families choose to never initiate or respond to this contact. Some loved ones do, however, and have found the resulting relationship to be healing. Donor agencies have family programs that can assist loved ones in the difficult decision-making around the process. Donation is always confidential, so recipients would never be able to get in touch with donors without their explicit permission. Donor families will, if they desire, receive information such as age, profession and other general details on the lives of recipients.

People who want to be organ donors need to discuss their decision with family members. Laws about organ donation vary from state to state, and sometimes a "D" on the driver's license is not sufficient to override family objection.

The decision to donate a loved one's organs is one of the most difficult a person can ever make. However, doing so can save many lives.