Willing to receive, but not give

Survey shows disturbing trend on organ donation

The holidays are gone for another year but were packed with shoppers seeking the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

At a glance, it would seem that Pennsylvanians are truly embracing the sense of giving that comes with the holiday season.

However, a recent survey found that many people are reluctant to give the greatest gift of all: the gift of life.

As it stands today, less than half of all eligible Pennsylvanians are registered organ and tissue donors — this according to a new poll commissioned by Donate Life PA.

In an effort to understand why people are hesitant about organ donation, 400 Pennsylvania adults, who are currently not registered organ donors, were asked: “If you were sick or injured and needed an organ or tissue transplant, would you accept the donation?”

Eight out of 10 people not registered as donors said they would accept an organ transplant if they were sick or injured and needed one.

Yet, despite the willingness of survey participants to receive a donation, only 46 percent of eligible Pennsylvanians are registered as organ and tissue donors.

The poll also revealed some familiar misconceptions. One in five respondents said that they were too old or unhealthy to register.

The fact is that anyone can register to be an organ donor — regardless of age or health. The oldest organ donor ever was 90 years old. Organs and tissues are carefully screened for diseases before transplant.

Don’t let your age or current health prevent you from registering.

We found that 10 percent of residents think that registering as an organ donor means doctors wouldn’t work as hard to save their life if they were in an accident.

It is an old myth that is absolutely not true.

Doctors are committed — and obligated — to do everything they can to save each person’s life. The medical team that treats a patient or makes a determination of death is always separate from the physicians involved with an organ transplant.

Nearly a quarter of Pennsylvania residents had forgotten to register when last renewing their license.

Fortunately, residents can register any time online at donatelifepa.org/registration and the registration process takes only 30 seconds.

Donate Life PA wants to make sure that all residents know that each registered donor can save up to eight lives and improve up to 75 lives.

With nearly 8,000 people in Pennsylvania currently on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant, we need more residents who are willing to be heroes.

I’ve witnessed donor families find a profound sense of comfort knowing that their loved one’s donation saved the lives of so many others. I’ve seen donor families and recipients meet for the first time and tearfully embrace as they celebrate the life and legacy.

Those experiences are beautiful, emotional and powerful.

As you think about the spirit of giving this holiday, I urge everyone to give the most special gift all — the gift of life. Please register as an organ and tissue donor.

Susan Stuart is the president and CEO for the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, based in Pittsburgh.