Why Is Organ Donation Necessary?

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In recent decades, major advances have occurred in the field of organ transplantation. Success rates have improved, more patients are now considered eligible for organ grafts, and more and more cities have established transplant centers. However, the demand for donor organs drastically exceeds the supply. Ironically, in some instances medical innovations have contributed to the shortage. Improvements in surgical technique, in the preservation of organs and in anti-rejection therapy have opened up the live-saving option of organ transplantation to thousands more patients each year. Improvements in the care of patients with advanced chronic illness have also boosted the numbers of potential organ recipients. In the United States, for example, 63,782 patients were on the National Transplant Waiting List on June 30, 1999. Despite this need, only20,961 transplants were performed the previous year, because organs were available from just 9,913 donors. This critical shortage of donor organs is considered the number-one issue inorgan transplantation, because many more lives could have been saved. In 1998, 4,855 Americans died while awaiting organ transplants. Of those, 2,295 wereawaiting kidney transplants and 1,319 were awaiting livers. Other patients died waiting for donor hearts (767), lungs (486), kidneys and pancreases (93),intestines (45), hearts and lungs (41), and pancreases (9). During the 1990s, the number of people on U.S. transplant waiting lists tripled, while virtually no increase was recorded in the number of organs available for transplant. It is estimated that between one-third and one-half of people now on waiting lists will die. According to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), many myths surroundthe subject of organ donations. For example, many people believe that their medical histories make their organs unusable for transplant purposes,

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