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Saving Lives with Organ Donation &  How Organ & Tissue Donation Changes Lives

Every day, 18 people die while waiting for a heart, liver, kidney, lung or other vital organ transplant.

Despite this need, most individuals don’t opt to donate their organs. In 2009, only 37 percent of U.S. residents age 18 and over were registered organ donors, according the conducted survey. That survey also found that while most individuals express interest in donating their organs and tissue, misperceptions about the process keep them from doing so. For example, 52 percent of survey respondents said they feared physicians would not try as hard to save their lives if they were organ or tissue donors.

Increasing the numbers of registered donors

Why aren’t more individuals signed up to donate their organs?

To combat this ambivalence and increase organ donation registration rates, various experts came up with models of organ donor registration behaviour. The model suggests that four factors can directly increase donor registration:

  1. An Immediate and complete opportunity for registration, by offering the chance to enrol in the state donor registry, for example.
  2. The provision of Information about registration availability, procedures and religion-based objections.
  3. Focused engagement, asking potential donors for their reasons for not registering.
  4. Favourable activation, stimulated through a group discussion designed to confirm pro-donation beliefs and debunk anti-donation myths.

Promoting individuals to donate

Psychologists are also easing the wait time for organs by encouraging patients to consider living donations. According to the latest data from the recent surveys for Organ Sharing, 44 percent of organ donations now involve living donors. Living kidney donation is most common, and living liver donation, where a portion of a donor’s liver is transferred to a recipient in need, is possible for some patients. There’s also evidence that living donor organs can result in better transplant recipient health and survival outcomes.

Psychologists have found, however, that many patients — particularly minorities — find it overwhelming to talk to their families about living organ donation and therefore never discuss the possibility with them. These patients may not know how to bring up the topic, or might fear the answer will be no. Others may be too concerned about risking a family member’s health or worried about disappointing the donor if the organ fails.

Reaching out to the needy patients

Yet before a patient can even approach family about considering evaluation for a living donation, medical professionals must make it clear that transplantation is even an option. A lack of information, coupled with a fear of surgery, often causes eligible patients to pass up a transplant evaluation — a step that’s required to get on the nation’s waiting list. Various researches has also shown that kidney failure patients on dialysis are often so overwhelmed by the lifestyle changes they’ll need to make for dialysis treatment that they’re given little or no information on kidney transplantation by their physicians in the crucial first months after being diagnosed.

Considering donors and recipients

Even if a patient successfully completes all of his or her medical screenings, an organ transplant is far from a sure thing. For years, psychologists have assessed the psychological health of potential transplant recipients and evaluated their support structures to help ensure they will be able to adhere to the lifestyle changes and rigorous medication regimen they’ll face after the surgery.

As living kidney donation increases, however, organ recipients and their caregivers aren’t the only ones who need psychological assessments pre- and post-transplant. Mental health professionals also play a role in evaluating potential donors, to ensure they’re providing this generous gift with full knowledge of the potential risks and benefits involved. It’s important to make sure organ donors aren’t donating because they felt pressured into it and that they have the supports they will need for the recovery process.

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