HHS Reports ‘Record Number’ of Living Organ Donations
Bolstered by a "record number" of living organ donors, the number of overall organ donations rose 5.4% to 22,827 last year, up from 21,655 in 1999, according to new figures from HHS, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The figures, whose release coincides with National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, indicate that living organ donations rose 16.5% last year. Specifically, more than 5,200 people donated one of their kidneys, and a "growing number" donated a piece of their liver. Donations from the dead increased only 2.7% last year -- a "slowdown in the rate of increase" (Hostetler, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17). The gap between growth in donations from the living and the dead was "particularly striking last year," and based on the living donation rate, the number of living donors will outpace donations from cadavers within two years, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 4/17). In addition, the HHS figures say the number of people who died last year while waiting for a transplant decreased by 12.5% -- the first decline ever. Officials at the United Network for Organ Sharing said that number was "likely due to a change in accounting that inflated the 1999 figures." HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "We're encouraged by the progress that has been made in the last year, but there's still a very long way to go" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17).
Thompson is expected today to launch a "major donation initiative," which will include a campaign with businesses and unions to promote donations among their employees (AP/Washington Post, 4/17). Nearly 20 companies and organizations, such as General Motors Corp. and Verizon, are expected to participate in the initiative, called the "Workplace Partnership" program which will give companies ideas on how to encourage donation and "chronic[le] their efforts on a new Web site." Thompson said, "With employers and employees working together, we can literally save thousands of lives. This includes not only large corporations and unions, but also the local employer and the small staff of employees. Everyone has a contribution to make." As part of the donor promotion campaign, HHS also intends to introduce a national donor card that will try to provide a "stronger case for proceeding with donation even if the family is reluctant." HHS has asked Congress for a 33% increase -- $5 million -- in organ donation funding next year (Meckler, Associated Press, 4/17).