LETTER: Organ donation is the gift of life

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

To the Editor:

The news story about Sarah Murnaghan’s fight to be placed on the adult lung transplant list should begin a state conversation on organ transplants.

More than 100,000 Americans are on the waiting list in need of an organ. This crisis within the United States is growing rapidly because on average, there are only 30,000 transplants performed each year. More than 6,000 people die each year from lack of a donor organ — an average of 19 people per day. Between the years 1988 and 2006, the number of transplants doubled, but the number of patients waiting for an organ grew six times as large. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_donation

About 20 million Americans have kidney disease. The number of people diagnosed with kidney disease has doubled each decade for the last two decades. In 2003, nearly 453,000 U.S. residents were under treatment for End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Each year, kidney disease kills more than 80,000 people, making it America's ninth leading cause of death. Source: ww.bluegrassrenalcare.com

Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and thymus. Tissues include bones, tendons, cornea, skin, heart valves and veins.

Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed closely by the liver and then the heart. The cornea and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues; these outnumber organ transplants by more than tenfold. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_transplantation

The United States now has an “opt-in” organ transplant system. Often, when getting a driver's license, people are asked if they want to be an organ donor. If yes, the driver's license notes this.

Other countries — Spain, Austria and Belgium, for example — use an “opt-out” system, which means that if you are a citizen, you automatically give your consent unless you “opt-out” in writing for personal or religious reasons.

I believe an “opt-out” system should be instituted immediately in this state with a system that places those who “opt-out” at the bottom of any organ donor list. The list should be maintained with coordination among states, and the list should be run by a nonprofit organization monitored by the states.

Organ donation could very likely be the final gift, possibly of life, one American can give another.

Alan Farrier