• U.S.

Health: The Gift of Life

2 minute read
Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

When it comes to organ transplants, demand has always outstripped supply. In the U.S. alone, more than 87,000 people are on the waiting list for transplant surgery, and every 13 minutes another name is added. An average of 17 people die every day for lack of organs. Yet a new poll suggests that plenty of people want to donate. They simply don’t know how. The survey, by the Coalition on Donation, found that while 9 out of 10 Americans support organ and tissue donation, only 3 out of 10 know the proper steps to take.

Before considering organ donation, many people have to get past a common and unfounded fear– that organs will be harvested when they still have a chance to live. Fifty-five percent of the respondents in the poll believe that people who are brain dead might be able to spring back to life. Rest assured, that is medically impossible.

If you want to become a donor, how can you make sure your wishes are carried out? Just checking the box on your driver’s license or carrying an organ-donor card is often not enough. The consent of your family may also be required (and as the Terri Schiavo case showed, it’s not always easy for everyone to reach agreement).

The solution? Assemble as many pieces of the puzzle in advance as you can. Include your wishes in a living will, add your name to official donor registries, discuss your preferences with family members. Each state has different donor rules, which you can view at donatelife.net you can also download a uniform donor card. It’s a small step that may one day make a very big difference. –With reporting by Shahreen Abedin

Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent

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