Twenty people die each day in the U.S. while waiting for an organ transplant. One organ donor could save eight of those lives. Understanding the power that organ donation can have for our loved ones is incredible.
I have always had a passion for the healthcare world and caring for others. After initially learning about the significance of organ donation, I became a volunteer for CORE Center for Organ Recovery & Education in Pittsburgh, PA to better understand the process and benefits of tissue and organ donation. Every ten minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list, and there simply aren’t enough donated organs to meet all the needs. There are many myths about organ donation that can deter people from registering as a donor .
According to the Human Resources & Services Administration, “95% of U.S. adults support organ donation, but only 54% of people are registered as organ donors.” Through my participation in the Salk Health Activist Fellowship this past fall, I created a campaign to change how Pennsylvania registers organ donors. The current process is an opt-in method; if you choose to become an organ donor you have to register. The goal is to change Pennsylvania to be an opt-out state for organ donation. Meaning that everyone would be registered as an organ donor that is eighteen years or older and a resident of Pennsylvania, unless you choose to opt-out.
In November 2018, there was approximately 8,000 people on waiting lists in Pennsylvania for life saving organ transplants. Nationally, there were 115,000 people on waiting lists for life saving organ transplants. Almost 8,000 people die waiting to receive their life saving organ transplant each year; that’s equivalent to everyone on the Pennsylvania lifesaving organ transplant list.
One of the greatest challenges to such a change would be communicating to the public, particularly hard to reach demographics and those with low health literacy. A clear plan for the process of transition and how to opt-out of organ donation would need to be developed . I believe the best way to address this issue would be to reach out to primary care physicians and have them make documentation in the patients charts on their annual wellness visits on their decision on becoming an organ donor. Also, when a patient checks in at an emergency room they would be presented with the same question, “What is your organ donation status?” There is the myth that if you are an organ donor that healthcare professionals will not “try” as hard to save your life. That is not true, I have seen firsthand healthcare professionals give it their all saving the lives of both organ donors and non-organ donors. If this was a routine question asked to all patients at hospitals and doctors’ appointments, I believe it could help provide education and access to all patients. Furthermore, I also learned that at the time of death even if a patient is a registered organ donor, their next of kin gets to make the final decision , so it is important that we share our decision with our loved ones.
Join the petition to change policy here in Pennsylvania to increase organ donation: https://www.change.org/p/pennsylvania-state-senate-change-pennsylvania-to-an-opt-out-state-for-organ-donation
Jessica Maneer, a native of Pittsburgh, is currently finishing a masters of health administration from Point Park University.