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For Organ Donation, Intent and Reality Don't Align
Date:9/12/2009

Far more say they'll donate than do, leaving long waits for transplants

SATURDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Though Americans by and large say they support the idea of donating some or all of their organs after death to save others' lives, reality presents a different picture.

Just 38 percent of licensed drivers in the United States are registered as organ and tissue donors, according to a report this year by Donate Life America, a national alliance of organ donor groups. And most waiting lists for organ transplants remain long.

The gap between good intentions and reality is distressing, say those who run organ donor programs. "Most Americans do support organ donation," said Kris Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Donor Network of Arizona. But follow-through? That's lacking, she and others said.

In recent years, organ donor organizations have stepped up outreach efforts to raise awareness and increase the number of people who donate, Patterson said. But there's clearly a long road ahead.

One person's decision to donate organs can save eight lives, and tissue donation can help 50 people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which maintains an organ donor information Web site.

"As the waiting list gets longer, the wait time [for a transplant] grows longer as well," said Charles Alexander, chief executive of the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, an organ donor group, and the incoming vice president of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a private nonprofit organization that, by act of Congress, maintains the national waiting list for transplants. It's administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing, known as UNOS.

As of noon, Sept. 11, there were 103,497 people in the United States waiting for a transplant. In the first six months of this year, 7,250 people donated organs, enabling 14,191 transplants, according to UNOS.

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