For the seriously ill in the United States, organ donation can sometimes be the solution. To qualify for an organ donation, a patient must meet many criteria. The organ donation system in America is in place to thoroughly vet patients and ensure that the most worthy and eligible patients receive the greatest benefit from this very limited resource.
To start with, the organ donation system in America requires individuals to opt-in to participate. Unless a person indicates their desire to donate their organs upon death, it may not happen. Even then, unless that person’s family also consents post-mortem, it still might not happen. The best way for a person to fulfill their desires to be an organ donor is to discuss their wishes with their family before it becomes an issue. No amount of indications on a driver’s license, living wills, or advance directives will matter if a person’s family is not on board with the decision to donate organs.
One major hindrance to the organ donation system in America is this opt-in system. It limits the number of available organs, making it harder to sick people to get what they need to feel better. Other countries utilize an opt-out system, making the pool of available organs more plentiful. Unfortunately, there is not a substantial movement towards that method of organ procurement in the United States.
According to WomensHealth.org, “There are now more than 105,000 people on the waiting list for solid organ transplants.” As many as 18 people per day die while waiting for a suitable organ. Another 77 patients do receive an organ transplant each day, which is a major encouragement for them and their family.
In the United States, the organ donation system is set up so that the organ donor nor their family make any money from the donation. All of the organ donor’s medical expenses are covered either by transplant recipient’s private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
WomensHealth.org explains that the distribution of organs is administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing which has established and maintains the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. This is a computer database that matches organ donors and organ recipients around the clock.
If someone is in need of an organ, the first thing they should do is to work with their doctor to be placed on the national transplant list. This list is prioritized by need based on physical condition, blood type, tissue type, length of time on the transplant list, and the distance between the organ donor and the organ recipient. It is impossible for a transplant candidate to know how long they will wait on a matching organ.
One protection of the organ transplant system in American is of the privacy of both the organ donor and the transplant recipient. It is never possible to directly contact the other party if someone wishes to check on their health or recovery after surgery unless both sides wish to make contact. Then, arrangements are made through the transplant center that coordinated the transplant.
Organdonor.gov provides a regular accounting of the number of transplant recipients and donors occur each year. As of March 17, 2010 there are more than 106,000 people waiting for an organ transplant.