Awareness Campaings For Organ Donation

Dramatic developments in organ and tissue transplantation have allowed persons with life-threatening illnesses a chance to live. The successful transplantation of kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, eyes, and skin has been enhanced by better surgical techniques and new drugs, such as cyclosporin, that prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ. Success, however, has led to an undersupply of organs for the estimated 30,000 patients each year who need a transplant. Laws have been enacted at the state and local level that attempt to provide a better system of organ donation and distribution and to encourage individuals to volunteer to be organ donors.

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act that was drafted in 1968 was the first effort at providing a national organ and tissue donation policy. The act created a uniform legal procedure for persons who wish to donate organs and for hospitals and medical institutions that want to accept them. Under this model act, which has been adopted in some form by all 50 states, a person of sound mind, who is at least 18 years of age, may donate all or part of his or her own body. There are several ways for a donor to record the wish to make a donation. The donor may include the donation in a will. If part of a will, the provision becomes effective immediately upon death, unlike other provisions of the will, which need to go through probate before they become effective. In practical terms, however, a will may be ineffective. Time is of the essence in organ donation, and if the will is not read for several days, it may be too late to make an effective donation.

The uniform act provides for a more common form of recording a person’s intention to make an organ donation: a donor card that may be carried in a wallet. States also allow this donor information to be imprinted on a driver’s license. When a person applies for a driver’s license, she or he has the option of including a desire to donate organs. Despite the simplicity of this option, it has not generated the quantity of donors that proponents of the procedure expected.

A written donation must be signed by the donor and witnessed by at least two other people. A donation can be made orally, but it too must be witnessed by at least two other people. A dying patient can communicate his or her wish to donate organs to an attending physician, who can act as one of the witnesses. However, the attending physician cannot be the doctor who removes or transplants the organ.

A person can revoke in writing or orally her or his intent to make an organ or tissue donation. If a dying person is unable to communicate and has not expressed an intent to donate, a family member or guardian can make a gift of all or part of the person’s body, within certain limitations. In general, even if a person has expressed the intent to donate, physicians still ask permission of a family member or guardian.

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