The national waiting list for organs transplants is rising at an alarming rate, with 120,011 individuals currently on the list. And in Ohio, as of Sept. 13, there are 3,179 people waiting for an organ transplant. According to Lifeline of Ohio, every 48 hours, a man, woman or child in Ohio dies waiting.
The Lifeline of Ohio organization is a non-profit organ procurement organization whose purpose is to promote and coordinate the donation of human organs and issues for transplantation. But one problem the organization faces, is the decrease of Scioto County donors.
The most common way to register as an organ donor is through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles when receiving or renewing a driver’s license. Only 40.9 percent of Scioto County citizens are registered as organ donors, falling 21 percent under the state average of 61.9 percent.
And of those 40.9 percent, more than half are between the ages of 15-22. Older donors are on the decline, and according to Lifeline Ohio’s Public Relations Coordinator, Jessica Petersen, this is due to misconceptions about organ donation in association with age.
“We’ve been seeing that a lot of people in Scioto County have been taking themselves out of the registry as they age,” said Peterson. “A lot of times, they’re just misinformed about donation and assume that they can’t, or because they have a health problem, that their other organs aren’t essential. But this isn’t the case.”
There are no age limits for organ and tissue donation. Organs may be donated by a senior citizen or someone as young as a newborn baby. But for children under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must give consent.
“Organ donation is only possible in about 1percent of deaths nationwide,” explained Peterson. “So it’s imperative that we sign up as many people as we can on the donor registry. To become an organ donor, you have to die in a hospital, on a ventilator, and be declared brain dead, which only happens in 1 percent of cases. If you’re not a registered donor, but you pass in a manner that you could be, your family may be asked to consider donation. That burden is going to be put on your family.”
Peterson shared some common myths and misconceptions surrounding organ donation and the resolutions to these myths.
Will doctors let me die if they know I’m an organ donor?
No. The doctors working to save your life have nothing to do with donation or transplantation. Donation is considered only after a person has been declared dead.
I’ve been sick lately or in the past, would they still want my organs?
At the time of death, trained organ recovery coordinators will review your medical history to determine what might be used for donation. Recent advances in transplantation have allowed for more people to be eligible donors. For example, people with diabetes can donate, people who have had cancer, but have been cancer-free, can be donors, and even people with poor eyesight can donate their eyes.
Does my religion oppose donation?
All major religions in the U.S. fully support donation. They consider donation as a gift of life and a last charitable act.
Does donation affect the appearance of the body or delay the funeral?
Donated organ and tissues are removed surgically, in a routine operation. Donation does not disfigure the body. Most donations take place within 24 hours after death and shouldn’t delay funeral arrangements or a family’s wish for an open casket.
Can rich and famous people buy organs?
Factors such as income or celebrity status are never considered. The determination of who gets an organ is based on many factors including blood type, severity of illness, length of time on the waiting list and geographical location. There is no way to buy a place on the waiting list.
But Peterson says the most common myth surrounds the idea of black-market/stolen organs.
“You’re not going to be drugged and have your kidney’s stolen,” Peterson said. “Although this myth continues to appear on the Internet and is talked about as truth, it has never been proven to have occurred. It takes a highly skilled medical teams to match up the donors and perform the surgery. It’s also a highly illegal, it’s a federal crime to buy or sell organs and tissues.”
A single donor can potentially save the lives of eight people and restore the lives of up to 50 more by donating vital organs, (heart, two lungs, two kidneys, two kidneys, liver, pancreas and small bowel) and tissue (corneas, bone, fascia, skin, veins and heart valves). Donors also have the option to specify which organs and tissues they would like to donate.
Ohioans can declare their wish to become a donor by registering online in the Ohio Donor Registry through www.lifelineofohio.org. You can also renew with your license.
To learn more, please visit the Lifeline of Ohio website at www.lifelineofohio.org.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara