Organ and Tissue Donation 101
Each day, about 74 people receive an organ transplant. However, 17 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
Who Can Become a Donor?
All individuals can indicate their intent to donate (persons under 18 years of age must have parent's or guardian's consent). Medical suitability for donation is determined at the time of death.
Why is it Important for Minorities to Donate?
The need for transplants is unusually high among some ethnic minorities. Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver that can lead to organ failure are found more frequently in ethnic minority populations than in the general population. For example, Native Americans are four times more likely than Whites to suffer from diabetes. African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from kidney disease. Many African Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to kidney failure. Some of these diseases are best treated through transplantation; others can only be treated through transplantation.
The rate of organ donation in minority communities does not keep pace with the number needing transplants. Although minorities donate in proportion to their share of the population, their need for transplants is much greater. African Americans, for example, are about 13 percent of the population, about 12 percent of donors, and about 23 percent of the kidney waiting list.
Successful transplantation is often enhanced by matching of organs between members of the same racial and ethnic group. Generally, people are genetically more similar to people of their own ethnicity or race than to people of other races. Therefore, matches are more likely and more timely when donors and potential recipients are members of the same ethnic background.
Minority patients may have to wait longer for matched kidneys and therefore may be sicker at the time of transplant or die waiting. With more donated organs from minorities, finding a match will be quicker and the waiting time will be reduced.
I Have a Previous Medical Condition Can I Still Donate?
Even if you have any pre-existing medical circumstances or conditions, determination of suitability to donate organs or tissue may be based on a combination of factors that take into account the donor's general health and the urgency of need of the recipient. This determination is usually done by the medical staff that recovers the organs or by the transplant team that reviews all of the data about the organ(s) or tissue that have been recovered from the donor.
If I Decide to Donate will that Affect the Quality of Care that I Receive in the Hospital?
No, every effort is made to save your life before donation is considered.
For more information on Minorities and Organ Donation and Transplantation:
- Minority Organ Tissue Transplantation Education Program
- United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Minority Affairs Committee
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid End Stage Renal Disease Program
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases patient information on kidney diseases
- Donate Life
- Coalition on Donation