Editorial: U.S. needs organ donors


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April is National Donate Life Month, sponsored by the donor advocacy group Donate Life America and meant to encourage people to donate organs, tissues, or eyes in order to save people with life-threatening medical conditions.

The month came to Iowa this past Monday in the form of an event held by Donate Life America at the IMU. Speakers shared stories of people saved by the generosity of people willing to donate their recently deceased loved ones, organs to total strangers in order to change their lives.

The benefits of a single organ donor are numerous, with Donate Life estimating that a single donor can save the lives of up to 50 individuals.

Unfortunately, the innate morality of donating one’s organs to save another person’s life has not led to a surplus of organs. On the contrary, this country is currently in the midst of an organ-donation shortage.

According to Donate Life, approximately 120,000 Americans are awaiting some form of organ donation. However, there simply aren’t enough organs currently available to meet the needs of the community. As Forbes has highlighted, around 87,000 patients per year require a kidney transplant, but only 17,000 are able to receive them.

Despite the demand, in 2012, only around 28,000 people received organ transplants, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Even more tragic, around 4,600 people die per year waiting for a kidney transplant.

The basic economic principle of supply and demand seems to be killing Americans at an unacceptable rate.

Also, as Joel Newman, the assistant director of communication of the United Network of Organ Sharing contended at the IMU event, around 100 million people nationally have said they would be more than willing to donate their organs upon death. However, large portions of these people have not made a commitment to organ donation through registering to become an organ donor.

It is our view that everyone should register to donate her or his organs — not only as a means to fix organ donation’s acute supply problem, and as a means of fulfilling a practical public-health policy to ensure that people do not have to languish, some until death, waiting for a donor match to be achieved, but also as a matter of simple, moral, personal principle.

One of the basic organizing principles of forming a cohesive society of humans is that we are, to a certain extent, dependent on each other. We have a police force of some humans to make sure other humans do not kill, rob, or maim each other. We have a fire department of some humans to make sure other humans don’t die in a fire. We have hospitals staffed with humans to try to save the lives of humans inflicted with injury or illness.

This is the same idea behind organ donations. The healthy among us decide to donate our organs (or, if we die, will our organs to posthumous donation) in order to help the sick among us. It’s the answer to that timeless question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer, now and always, is yes.

If you haven’t already please register to become an organ donor. It truly is the humane thing to do.

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