By Michael Sterchi
Lets begin the New Year with an important topic, the continuation of useful life by organ donation. Organ donation is available to everyone whenever the end of his or her life is at hand.
In most cases the family of the terminally ill patient makes the final decision about organ donation, but the individual can start the process, by simply agreeing to be a donor by telling family members or noting it on their drivers license. Everyone has this opportunity.
Although some European countries allow organ procurement without the donor’s family involvement, this is always a mistake. Also some of the same countries force their citizens to decide whether or not to enter an organ donor program, claiming a beneficial effect on national unity. These measures have come about as a result of the enormous shortfall of available organs for transplant.
Measures to force citizens into a decision are a mistake. The decision to be an organ donor should always be voluntary and well informed.
Even in this country mandated consent is required in New Jersey. Beginning in 2013 all New Jersey drivers must indicate whether they are willing to be a donor or acknowledge being adequately informed without consenting to be a donor. Such pressure is seen in no other states, reflecting inappropriate legislative action rather than the will of the people.
As already stated, the number of potential transplant patients far exceeds the available organs. The number of patients awaiting some form of organ transplant is greater than 112,000 as of December 2011.
Kidneys, livers and hearts are the organs most in demand, with about 90,000 kidneys, 16,000 livers and 3,000 hearts needed.
In 2011 about 28,000 organs have been available. Fewer than 17,000 of these have been kidneys.
Donors seemed to have peaked in 2007. With no increase in donors on the horizon, the real tragedy lies in the fact that at least 7,000 patients on the organ transplant waiting list die each year from their illness.
Such a shortfall of available organs for transplant may never be corrected, emphasizing the continued need in preventive medicine, for controlling those factors causing kidney, liver and heart failure. Early intervention in causes leading to end stage organ disease is currently the only realistic solution, in view of the lack of organs and the cost of transplantation, and will always be the most cost effective strategy.
Lets begin the New Year by taking care of ourselves, controlling blood pressure, eating right and getting more exercise.
Published Jan. 18, 2012