Some potential donors may be reluctant to make a commitment because of myths about organ donation or lack of information. Tony Ronquillo, community relations manager for the South Texas Organ Bank (STOB), an area not-for-profit organization that transports harvested organs, explains, "Many are reluctant to be designated as an organ donor, and they give their religion as the reason. This is an unfounded concern because almost every faith considers organ donation the ultimate act of charity."
Other concerns are costs and the notion that organ donation results in disfigurement, eliminating plans for an open-casket funeral. "The donor does not pay for the surgery to recover organs," said Ronquillo, "because that's taken care of by a local non-profit procurement organization. And the body is not disfigured during surgery to recover organs."
At the request of a physician, the name of a patient wishing to be an organ recipient is placed on a waiting list handled by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a national non-profit organization which is under contract with the federal government. Locally, the STOB works with UNOS.
"When an organ becomes available in South Texas, we notify UNOS. Then they send us a list of patients who could receive the donor's organ," said Ronquillo. Beyond the blood and tissue matching with donor organs and possible recipients, other factors influence who may receive a donor organ. Patients on the waiting list are assigned to one of three categories:
In addition, a social worker on the Health Science Center's organ transplantation team interviews the potential recipient to determine if he or she can handle the stress of the surgery and the required postoperative care. The patient's willingness to follow medical instruction, his or her life goals and sense of purpose, the availability of caregivers and family support are among the issues considered before a patient can receive an organ. "Organ transplants give patients who would soon die another chance," said Glenn A. Halff, MD, associate professor of surgery and director of the organ transplantation team at the Health Science Center. Approximately 170 of his team's patients are waiting for liver or kidney transplants. While the number of patients needing organ transplants increases, the number of donors does not. In the United States 43,000 patients are waiting for a new heart, kidney, liver, lung or pancreas; the South Texas Organ Bank estimates fewer than one-third of them will receive donor organs.
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