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December 19, 2007 > Organ Donation Saves Lives

Organ Donation Saves Lives

Talk to Your Loved Ones and Register Online

At any give time, nearly 20,000 Californians are waiting for an organ. Tragically, one third of them will die waiting.
Washington Hospital and the California Transplant Donor Network are working to raise awareness about the need for more organ donors, especially among minorities. For African Americans, Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders and others, the shortage in organ donation is particularly problematic.
Two-thirds of those on the waiting list in California are minorities, according to the California Transplant Donor Network, with 33 percent Latino, 17 percent Asian Pacific Islander, and 14 percent African Americans.
This is significant because transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic and racial group. A patient is less likely to reject an organ if it is donated by someone who is genetically similar. In general, people are more genetically similar to people of their own race or ethnicity.
In addition, minorities face higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disorders - diseases that can lead to organ failure. For example, African Americans are three times more likely to suffer from end-stage renal disease than Caucasians.
Last year, four Washington Hospital patients became organ donors, saving 18 lives. Every organ donor can potentially save eight lives, while tissue donors can enhance the lives of up to 50 people. Tissues such as bone, tendons, cartilage, arteries and veins can be transplanted and improve the quality of life for a number of people. Eye and cornea donations can give the gift of sight while skin donations can save burn victims from disfigurement. Tissue donations can also provide relief from amputation and offer other life-enhancing treatments.
In California, officially declaring yourself an organ and tissue donor is easy. You can put your name on the official registry at www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org or in Spanish at www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org. Also, you can notify the Department of Motor Vehicles and your name will be added to the official registry. Since the online registry was launched in 2004, more than 2 million Californians have registered.
Ninety percent of Americans say that organ donation is the right thing to do, yet only 30 percent of those same individuals have legally and properly recorded their decision to donate, according to Donate Life California.
"It's important for people to have all the facts," said Laurie Stewart, donor services liaison from the California Transplant Donor Network. "There are so many myths about organ donation."
Many people are unduly fearful about organ donation or confused about how it works. Here are some of the myths and facts.
If the hospital knows I am a donor, they won't try as hard to save me. Medical professionals will do everything in their power to save your life. It is only after every attempt has been made to save your life that donation is even discussed.
They might take out my organs before I'm really dead. Two licensed physicians must make the diagnosis of brain death before the family is contacted about donation.
Famous or wealthy people get preferential treatment, so my donation probably won't help regular people like me. Those who need an organ are placed on a central waiting list managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Priority is given based on urgency of need, length of time on the waiting list, and other medical factors only.
Organ donation is against my religion. Most religions support organ and tissue donation and see it as a final act of love and generosity toward others.
The body may be disfigured. The donation is completed in a sterile, surgical environment, with complete respect to the body and no disfigurement occurs. Organ donors can have an open casket funeral.
Donation will be too expensive for my family. Donor families incur no expenses related to the organ or tissue donation.
"Families should talk about the issue before a medical crisis occurs," Stewart said. "End-of-life decisions are very hard topics to talk about and they are best addressed before a tragic situation happens. By understanding more about organ donation, families can understand how their loss may help save the lives of other people waiting for organs."
To learn more about organ donation or register to be a donor, visit www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org, www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org, or www.ctdn.org.

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You can learn more about Organ Donation on an upcoming program on InHealth, A Washington Hospital Channel on Comcast Channel 78. "Voices InHealth: California Transplant Donor Network" takes an inside look at how the organ and tissue donation process works and offers viewers the opportunity to learn more information about the different services that the Donor Network provides. The program also showcases the benefits of organ donation from a donor family's perspective.

The InHealth program schedule is published weekly in the Tri-City Voice. It is also posted on Washington Hospital's website at www.whhs.com. InHealth Channel 78 is available to Comcast subscribers in Newark, Union City and Fremont. For more information on the InHealth Channel, visit www.whhs.com, click on "For Our Community" and select "InHealth Channel" from the drop-down menu or call (800) 963-7070.
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