Can We Talk: Organ Donation (The Basics)

Hey everyone – We are back with another Can We Talk series! *cues Tevin Campbell*

This time the topic is organ donation. Organ donation can have a bit of a bad wrap – especially among people of color. And that means there is no better timing for some candid conversation about the topic. This will be a three part series. Part one will give an overview of organ donation. Part two will be about common myths surrounding organ donation. Part three will be about the social media ethics and organ donation.

So let’s jump in!

What is organ donation? It’s giving one or more organs to an individual without compensation. You can also donate bodily tissues. Signing up is easy – you can either go to your their neighborhood motor vehicle association but you can also sign up online as well ( link here ). The benefit of signing up online is that you can decide which organs you would like to donate. If you have an organ donation card, that’s not enough documentation to make sure you are in the donor registry and such. You must go through either the MVA/DMV or online registry. If you change your mind about donating, you can remove yourself from the registered donors list at anytime. In most states, you have to be over the age of 18 to sign up for organ donation. Just make sure you let your family know that you are an organ donor, so there are no surprises. Also – organs aren’t matched by race or ethnicity (i.e. black recipients do not just get organs from black donors). Here is a list of organs and tissues that can be donated –

  • Heart
  • Kidneys (2)
  • Lungs (2)
  • Liver
  • Intestines
  • Cornea
  • Skin
  • Heart valves
  • Bone
  • Blood Vessels
  • Connective Tissues
  • Bone Marrow
  • Stem Cells
  • Umbilical Cord Blood
  • Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC)

There are two types of organ donation – deceased donation and living donation (totally not as scary as it sounds). There are about 125 million people registered up for deceased donation – but only 3 in 1000 can actually become donors upon death. There are only about 6000 living donations per year. SinceI live for a good diagram/chart – here is a plain language step-by-step for each type of donation –

·      You’re admitted to a hospital (severe illness or accident) ·      Evaluated by transplant center to make sure no negative physical or mental effects will come with the donation
·      The medical team does everything they can to save you ·      If everything is okay, the surgery is scheduled and competed
·      If you die and are unresponsive, the medical team runs tests for brain death ·      Your organ is transferred to another individual (Congrats you saved a life!)
·      The Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) and Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) are contacted and organs are artificially maintained until surgical removal
·      If the OPO and OPTN identify you as a donor and identify a match, organ is surgically removed for transplant

You’re welcome.

It’s really important to become an organ donor. There are about 119,000 people on the transplant waiting list list. Over half of the people on the list are minorities. Just over a quarter of minorities are deceased donors. But, statistics are moving in the right direction. In 2010, African-Americans have a higher organ donation per million compared to Whites, Hispanics, and Asians. It is the highest it has been and most of the improvement has been attributed to organ donation educational programs geared towards African-Americans.

We all know that knowledge is power. Knowledge about organ donation is crucial for minorities because we have real reasons for being mistrustful of medicine. But now we have current reasons to move past that mistrust. Anyone can wake up one day and need a transplant – a mother, father, or a sibling. In case you missed it – the transplant waiting list is long. I know I sound like a cheesy motivational speaker, but signing up does make a difference. You can potentially save eight lives by just making the choice to become a donor. Signing up to be an organ donor will give someone a new life, figuratively and literally.

Next week, we will tackle organ donation rumors!

Until next time,

The Neighborhood Bioethicist




Callender, C. O., N. Koizumi, P. V. Miles, and J. K. Melancon. “Organ Donation in the United States: The Tale of the African-American Journey of Moving From the Bottom to the Top.” Transplantation Proceedings 48, no. 7 (September 2016): 2392–95. doi:10.1016/j.transproceed.2016.02.094.
“How Organ Donation Works, Organ Donation Information |” Html. Accessed June 19, 2017.
O’mally, Aisha K., and Tracy R. Worrell. “Statistics or Stories, Black or White? Examining Influences of African American Organ Donation.” Howard Journal of Communications 25, no. 1 (January 2014): 98–114. doi:10.1080/10646175.2014.864209.
“Organ Donation.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed June 20, 2017.
Quick, Brian L., Nicole R. LaVoie, Allison M. Scott, Dave Bosch, and Susan E. Morgan. “Perceptions About Organ Donation Among African American, Hispanic, and White High School Students.” Qualitative Health Research 22, no. 7 (July 1, 2012): 921–33. doi:10.1177/1049732312439631.
Robinson, Robinson, and Dana H. Z. Robinson. “Understanding African American’s Religious Beliefs and Organ Donation Intentions.” Journal of Religion and Health 53, no. 6 (201412): 1857–72.

2 thoughts on “Can We Talk: Organ Donation (The Basics)

  1. Pingback: Can We Talk: Organ Donation (Rumors and Truth) | The neighborhood bioethicist

  2. Pingback: Can We Talk: Organ Donation (Social Media Ethics) | The neighborhood bioethicist

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