NEW YORK — Every year, more than 100,000 Americans will need a life-saving organ transplant, yet in 2011 fewer than 22,000 transplants took place in the United States. In New York only 18 percent of New Yorkers who are eligible to donate are registered as organ donors, in stark contrast to the national average of 42 percent.
Even though there have been amazing advances in life saving organ transplant the transplant waiting lists continue to grow at a rapid rate –a new patient is added every 11 minutes.
April is National Donate Life Month and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is teaming up with the New York Organ Donor Network to educate New Yorkers about how simple it can be to save someone’s life.
One organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues however, misconceptions often stop people from registering to become an organ donor. Here are the top ten facts that you may not know about organ and tissue donation:
- FACT: Most major religions publicly endorse organ donation as the highest gesture of humanitarianism, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, talk to a member of your clergy.
- FACT: There are very few medical conditions that would automatically disqualify you from donating any organs and tissues so don’t disqualify yourself. It may turn out that while certain organs are not suitable for transplant, other organs and tissues are fine.
- FACT: Family members are never held responsible for any costs related to donation.
- FACT: Although it is important to join a donor registry and indicate that you are an organ donor on your driver’s license, it is equally important to speak with your family, friends, and doctors about your decision, so that they are aware of your wishes.
- FACT: Your medical history is more important than your age. Organs have been transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s and even 92-year-olds have donated their livers in the United States.
- FACT: Potential organ donors are usually admitted to the hospital after illness or an accident, and have usually experienced a brain aneurysm, stroke, or severe head trauma. The team of medical professionals caring for the patient does everything possible to save the patient’s life, and have nothing to do with transplantation.
- FACT: Although you must be 18 years of age to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry, parents or guardians can authorize this decision for their children who would like to register.
- FACT: The organ transplant waiting list is blind to wealth and celebrity status. People receive organs based on the severity of the illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type.
- FACT: Donating an organ will in no way delay funeral arrangements or change any funeral plans. Open casket viewing is possible after any type of donation.
- FACT: It is possible to donate to someone who is not a relative and even to someone from another racial or ethnic group. However transplant success rates do increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. A lack of organ donation among ethnic populations can lead to longer wait times for individuals within that ethnic group.
It is also important to remember that it is also possible to donate certain organs or part of organs (such as a kidney, or part of your liver) while you are living. Living donors improve the lives of the recipients of their organs every day, and represent a very important group of organ donors. For more information about organ donation, please visit www.organdonor.gov. To learn more about living donation, please visit www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors/index.cfm.
Organ Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
The organ transplantation program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital — which includes NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia and The Rogosin Institute — is the most active program of its kind in the nation, offering comprehensive and personalized care for the heart, liver, pancreas, kidney and lung. With outcomes ranked among the nation’s best, the Hospital is dedicated to improving quality of life for its patients. NewYork-Presbyterian’s dedicated teams of surgeons and physicians are responsible for many significant advances made over the past several decades in transplant surgery and the maintenance of healthy organs. The Hospital has been on the forefront of developing and improving anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants), minimally invasive surgery for living donors, genetic methods to detect transplant rejection, strategies to increase opportunities for donor matching, islet cell transplantation and the FDA-approved Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD) that functions as a bridge to transplantation for those who are waiting for a new heart.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation’s largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian’s 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.
New York Organ Donor Network
Founded in 1978, the New York Organ Donor Network is the second largest of the nation’s 58 nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organizations (OPOs). The New York Organ Donor Network is responsible for the recovery of organs, eyes and tissues for transplantation, and public and professional education efforts in the greater New York metropolitan area. It serves a highly diverse population in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester and Pike County, PA. The Donor Network partners with 10 transplant centers, more than 90 hospitals, as well as several eye and tissue banks. By law, hospitals are required to notify the Donor Network of all in-hospital deaths or imminent deaths. The agency has highly trained staff whose primary role is to ensure that families carry out the legally binding consent decisions of their loved ones to be donors. When there is no prior legal documentation of consent, the Donor Network seeks authorization for donation from the legal next of kin. The agency works closely with hospital personnel to recover suitable organs, eyes and tissues, and it also offers follow-up care and referrals to all donor families. Organs recovered for transplant are hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, pancreas, and intestines. Also recovered are whole eyes or corneas and the following tissues: heart valves, cardiovascular tissue, bone and soft musculoskeletal tissue, and skin. The New York Organ Donor Network is fully accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO). It is a member of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). For more information about organ, eye and tissue donation visit us at http://www.donatelifeny.org.