Issue

Good news! Today, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced a plan to encourage Facebook users to indicate their organ donor status on their Facebook pages. Under the plan, Facebook members can register to become organ donors via links on Facebook to online state registries. Given the company’s social networking muscle and global reach, some organ donation experts are speculating Facebook’s plan could radically increase the number of registered organ donors in the coming months.

“Transplantation is the best solution to end stage organ failure. This is a historic moment for organ donation and awareness. Organ shortage is a global public health problem. Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative, with Facebook’s global impact, will tremendously increase awareness which will result in more lives being saved, ” said André A.S. Dick, MD, MPH, FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Transplantation at Seattle Children’s Hospital. ”As of today, there are 114,000 wait list candidates in the U. S. and the gap between donors and recipients is increasing every year. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the transplant community support the campaign and hope it goes viral.”

Background

Organ transplantation is one of the greatest medical advances in the 20th century. And yet, on any given day there are more than 100,000 children and adults in the U.S. waiting for a life-saving organ. Why is there such a shortage of organ donors? Is it because people may be reluctant to think about what happens to their bodies when they die? Is it because people don’t realize they can also be a living donor? Is it due to persistent myths that circulate about organ donation?

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), some of the most common myths about organ donation include the following:

  • Myth: If you agree to donate your organs, your family will be charged for the costs.
  • Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.
  • Myth: When you’re waiting for a transplant, your financial or celebrity status is as important as your medical status.
  • Fact: When you are on the transplant waiting list for a donor organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information.
  • Myth: Your religion prohibits organ donation.
  • Fact: All major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.
  • Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.
  • Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. Many states have adopted legislation allowing individuals to legally designate their wish to be a donor should brain death occur, although in many states Organ Procurement Organizations also require consent from the donor’s family.
  • More myths can be found at UNOS.

Statistics

National:

  • 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.
  • According to Donate Life America, more than 100,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
  • An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
  • Organs and tissue from one donor can help or save as many as 50 people.
  • More stats can be found at Donate Life Today.

Washington state:

Seattle Children’s Transplantation Center:

  • Seattle Children’s Transplant team has performed approximately 650 organ transplants.
  • The outcomes of our liver, heart and kidney transplant programs are among the best in the nation.

Experts on pediatric transplantation available for media interviews

  • André A.S. Dick, MD, MPH, FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Transplantation. Dr. Dick serves as the Region 6 Representative to the Pediatric Transplant Committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS/OPTN).
  • Patrick Healey, MD, Division Chief, Transplantation. Dr. Healey has been a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Organ Availability Committee (2007–2008) and the UNOS Pediatric Committee (2005–2007).
  •  Simon Horslen, MB, ChB, Medical Director, Liver and Intestinal Transplantation. Dr. Horslen is past-chairman of the UNOS Pediatric Transplant Committee and a member of the AST Education committee and the Executive Committee of the AST Pediatric Community of Practice.
  • Ruth McDonald, MD, Medical Director, Solid Organ Transplant. Dr. McDonald serves on the UNOS Kidney Committee and is an elected member of the UNOS Board of Directors. Additionally, she serves on the pediatric nephrology sub-board of the American Board of Pediatrics.
  • Jorge Reyes, MD, Director, Transplant Services. Dr. Reyes has held leadership and advocacy positions in the transplantation community and nationally through UNOS and the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation (ACOT).

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18-year-old awaiting 2nd kidney transplant available for interviews

Talk with an inspiring 18-year-old patient who doesn’t let the fact that he’s waiting for a new kidney keep him from his favorite hobby, snowboarding. Born with kidney failure, he received his first kidney transplant at age 3; his donor was his mother. Now, with his kidney nearing the end of its life span, he’s faced with dialysis if a donor kidney doesn’t become available. Unless new treatments are developed or current anti-rejection medication protocols are improved, he will need multiple transplants throughout his lifetime.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to arrange an interview with one of the Seattle Children’s experts or the patient family mentioned above, please contact Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or press@seattlechildrens.org.