As of 5:14 p.m. on October 7, there were 100,024 people on the national transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which administers the waiting list and establishes rules for allocating donated organs.
“If UNOS allocated organs first to registered organ donors, more people would donate and thousands of lives would be saved every year,” says David J. Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers. He suggests that UNOS should make this announcement: “Over 100,000 Americans are now waiting for organ transplants, and more than half of these people will die waiting. Just about everyone would accept a transplant if they needed one, but only about 50 percent of Americans have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. So beginning on July 1, 2009, UNOS will establish two waiting lists for transplant recipients. The ‘A’ list will be for people who have been registered organ donors for at least six months and for infants less than six months old who were registered as organ donors at birth. The ‘B’ list will be for everyone else. All organs will be allocated first to people on the ‘A’ list. Organs will be made available to people on the ‘B’ list only if not needed by any registered organ donor.”
“In response to this announcement, just about everyone in the United States who was not already a registered organ donor would register,” adds Mr. Undis. “The supply of transplantable organs would go way up, and thousands of lives would be saved every year. Very few people would refuse to donate their organs when they died if they knew it would reduce their chances of getting a transplant should they ever need one to live.”
Allocating organs first to organ donors will also make the transplant system fairer. “It is a fundamental issue of fairness that people who agree to donate organs should get priority if they need one,” says Steve P. Calandrillo, Professor at the University of Washington Law School. “Thousands of people are dying needlessly every year -- not because life-saving organs don't exist, but because we don't incent people properly to make them available in the first place.”
People who want to donate their organs to other organ donors don’t have to wait for UNOS to change its allocation rules. They can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers members agree to offer their organs first to other members when they die, if any member is a suitable match. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.
THE ORGAN DONOR SHORTAGE IN THE UNITED STATE
* Every year about 7,000 people are removed from the national transplant waiting list because they died waiting. Another 2,000 are removed because while they were waiting they became too sick to undergo transplant surgery.
* In 2007, there were 28,358 organ transplants in the United States but 48,405 people were added to the transplant waiting list.
* The UNOS transplant waiting list has grown steadily. On October 1 three years ago, there were 89,542 people on the waiting list.
* In the last 10 years, about 85,000 people have died because there aren’t enough organs to transplant.
Only about 50% of adult Americans are registered organ donors. About 50% of the organs that could be transplanted from potential diseased organ donors are buried or cremated instead.