Interview with the United Network for Organ Sharing

Bob Spieldenner, United Network for Organ Sharing

QUESTION: How many people are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States of America?
ANSWER: Currently, there are 65,000 people who are waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. Last year, there were only enough donated organs to transplant into 21,000 people. Also last year, 4,900 patients died while waiting for an organ transplant.

QUESTION: How can I become an organ donor? Who is able to donate?

ANSWER: Anyone is able to donate (except for HIV positive people). All you have to do is tell your loved ones. They will be asked about donating your organs when you die. You can sign a donor card, but the most important thing is to have a family discussion.

QUESTION: What is the criteria for a person to be considered dead before taking organs? Are organs sometimes taken before the person is completely dead?

ANSWER: One of the biggest myths (and fears) is that organs will be taken before someone is dead. Even if you have a signed donor card, your family will still be asked to donate your organs before anything is done. Most importantly, people must be dead to be a donor. Usually that means brain dead. Brain dead means there is no function in the brain or brain stem with no chance of recovery (it is not the same thing as a coma). The heart can be kept beating using machines, but the patient is legally dead. Death is only declared after several tests performed by neurosurgeons (who have no ties to organ donation). Only after the family understands that their loved one is dead are they approached about donating their loved ones organs.

QUESTION: What is the procedure if you need a transplant? Does the doctor take care of getting the patient on a list or does the patient need to be active in this as well?

ANSWER: To be put on the list a patient must be evaluated by a transplant center. If they meet the criteria then the patient is put on the list by the transplant center. We recommend that patients play an active role in their care. Information is available for patients to help them choose their transplant center and other information from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *