Organ donation is extremely important. Many people are currently in waiting lists for kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and intestine transplants. A significant percentage of these patients, pass away before receiving the transplant.
The situation for every organ is different. While people in need for a kidney transplant or a liver transplant can receive an organ (or part of it) from a living donor (provided that the donor is immunologically compatible with the recipient), the other organs need the donor to be a deceased person. Also, while people with kidney insufficiency can undergo dialysis treatments while waiting for a kidney transplant, the situation is different for the other organs because besides medical treatment, there is no effective way of replacing the organ functions.
How to become an organ donor? There are a couple of ways. Any person, at the time of registering for an state ID or (renewing it) can register as an organ donor. In addition, there are state organ donation registries, accessible through the internet. It is important to carry a card that can provide consent for a donation of organs in the event of sudden death. Living donation is also possible in the event of a friend or relative needing an organ. There are also “paired donation programs” by which, in the event the donor is not compatible with the intended recipient, there could be a “cross donation” by which an organ will be given to a compatible recipient provided that this recipient has a donor compatible with the first recipient.
There are medical conditions that a living donor must not have in order to qualify to donate an organ . These are HIV disease, diabetes mellitus, malignancies or any chronic infectious problem. Also, the donor must not have any condition that may be worsened by organ donation like, for example, chronic kidney disease.
Finally, it is important to say that for the transplant recipient, the problems are not over after receiving the donated organ. They have to continue with lifelong immunosuppressive therapy which has risks of their own. However, overall, it is a second chance for enjoying life.
For further information visit: www.organdonor.gov
Marco A. Ramos MD