Time to Give It a Try
The successful development of transplantation is one of the most miraculous accomplishments of modern medicine. Unfortunately, the ability to deliver this medical miracle is limited by a severe and steadily worsening shortage of organs. 1 According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, as of 31 March 1996, more than 45,000 persons in the United States were on the national waiting list for transplantation 2; this list grows by several hundred each month. It is estimated that eight of these people will die each day while waiting for transplantation. 3 Even more tragic is the realization that many of these deaths are preventable. Because only about 40 percent of potential cadaveric organ donors become actual donors, large numbers of life-saving organs are continuously being lost. 4 Clearly, something is wrong with our current organ procurement system.
In the United States, explicit consent is required before organs may be removed and used for transplantation. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which has been passed in some form in all states and the District of Columbia, provides the legal framework for this process. 5,6,7 This statute gives all competent adults legal authority to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to become organ donors after their deaths. Unfortunately, relatively few people take advantage of this law and record their wishes about posthumous organ dona____________________