Organ Donation, the Gift of Endless Possibilities

2009-09-20 17:51

The possibility of live organ donation began 55 years ago. Dr Joseph Murray performed that first live organ transplant in December 1954. He transplanted a healthy kidney from one identical twin to another. It was successful, giving Richard Herrick eight more years of life. He died of causes unrelated to the surgery. His brother Ronald is living in Maine.

The need for all organ transplantation has increased. In the United States, more than 84,000 men, women and children are waiting for organ transplants. To receive the needed organ, they rely on “the gift of endless possibilities.” The gift of an organ from a living or deceased donor.

In 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act established the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN), a national organ sharing system to guarantee, among other things, fairness in the allocation of organs for transplant. UNOS maintains a central computer network containing the names of all patients waiting for kidney, heart, liver, lung, intestine, pancreas and multiple-organ transplants; the UNOS "Organ Center" is staffed 24 hours a day to respond to requests to list patients, change status of patients, and help coordinate the placement of organs.

Earlier this year Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration set up an online Joshua Abbott Organ and Tissue Donor Registry to make it easier for Floridians to become organ donors. Now, they need only go to and fill out the paperwork. Florida alone has more than 3,500 waiting transplants.

The University of Michigan developed an organ matching software program in 2008. The program is designed to match an patients who need a kidney and has a family member or friend willing to donate one of his or her kidneys, but it cannot be done due to tissue or blood type incompatibilities with others in the same situation.

The five-year patient survival rate for recipients of a living kidney donor transplant is 90.1 percent. The rate for those with kidneys from a deceased donor is a little smaller, 81.9 percent. Either gives the “gift of endless possibilities” – life.


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I applaud Dr Bates for this gem of an article in a sea so much mis-information regarding living kidney donation. I just wanted to add a bit to her answer to one of the questions. It is true that kidney failure in a former donor is rare due to the rigorous screening process (180 cases per million per year, or 33% lower than the one found in the rest of the population, as per recent study). Moreover, If someone who is a living organ (or organ-segment) donor ever needs a kidney transplant, UNOS would grant them an additional four points when placed on the transplant waiting list. This would shorten their wait time by an equivalent of 4 years. Moreover, at the local level of organ distribution, those living donors would also go to the top of the adult list for their region. This is a little known provision in current UNOS policy that addresses a fear on the part of some living kidney donors concerned about loosing the function of their one remaining kidney.