In the United States, close to 100,000 patients are on a waiting list for organ transplants; over 4,300 of them are from New Jersey. Chronic renal disease accounts for the majority of those on the waiting list. To stay alive, patients must either rely on dialysis or undergo transplantation. In the year 2007, of the 585 transplants performed in New Jersey, 431 were kidney transplants.
There are two ways kidney transplantation can occur: through the donation of an organ following death or through living donation. Saint Barnabas and Newark Beth Israel Medical Centers encourage living donation through their Living Donor Institute. However, they also support New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network, Inc. (NJ Sharing Network) that works actively to educate people about the importance of organ donation after death.
According to a recent Gallup survey, a majority of Americans are now more receptive to organ donation, yet only 20 percent of the annual 20,000 to 25,000 brain deaths in this country result in donations. Many people who would like to donate organs fail to tell their families. Others feel it is against their religion, unaware that most religions support organ donation. Another fear is that once admitted to a hospital, if staff is aware of a donor designation, treatment will not be aggressive. In reality, the transplant/recovery team is called in only after death has occurred. One individual who donates after death can provide organs, bone and tissue for 75 or more people in need.
NJ Sharing Network– a non-profit, federally certified and state-approved procurement organization – urges everyone to take the following steps:
- Add the donor designation on your New Jersey driver’s license or ID card. This is the most important and direct way to make your wishes known. The words “Organ Donor” will appear on the front of your license and will be included in your computer record with the Motor Vehicle Commission. For more information or to sign up to be notified when an online registry is available, visit www.donatelifenj.org.
- Tell your family about your decision so they understand your wishes. If there is no designation on your driver’s license or other legal means of donor designation, the final decision about organ and tissue donation will be made by your family. Your wishes can also be made through advance directives and living wills.
- Until you get to MVC and make your donor designation, you can also sign and carry an organ donor card. Please note that while the donor card allows you to legally express your wishes, it must be accessible at the time of your passing as it is not connected to any registry.If you have checked the organ donor box on your driver’s license, that is a valid document; however, it is more important to tell family members. If your intentions are understood in advance, family members will be better able to carry out your wishes. If you are not carrying a driver’s license or donor card at the time of death, it is extremely important that your family is aware of your wishes and supports your commitment.
For more information, call 1-800-SHARE-NJ or visit www.sharenj.org.
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