Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 4, 2002. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
State needs organ donors to save lives
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Not enough Mississippians give blood to save the lives of people in need, but even fewer have committed to giving their organs and tissue to save someone's life after their own has passed.
The Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency is the federally designated organ procurement organization for most of the state. They report that more than 75,000 people nationwide need organ transplants, and 16 of these die each day waiting for the organ that will save their lives.
According to the agency, more than 600 Mississippians need organ transplants, and most of these are awaiting kidneys. About 50 percent of families with a deceased loved one capable of donating organs consent to donate the person's organs, a rate comparable to the national average.
Romona Edge, health agent in Itawamba County with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said transplanting organs and tissues is no longer considered a short-term, experimental solution but a long-term treatment option for deadly medical conditions.
"Far too few Mississippians donate organs and tissue, yet everyone is a potential donor," Edge said. "Donating organs saves lives. Once you're dead and gone, you can't use your organs, but someone else can."
Edge said a lack of awareness, limited knowledge of how the donation process works and religious reasons keep some people from donating organs.
"Donating organs cost the family of the deceased nothing, and the family is still able to have a funeral and bury their loved one as they would like," Edge said.
A relative of the deceased person must authorize the donation regardless of whether the person has signed a organ or tissue donor card.
"Many of us believe that all we have to do is sign the back of our driver's license to be an organ donor, but the legal next-of-kin must give permission before the donation can be made," Edge said. "It's very important that everyone who wants to be a donor share their wishes with family and friends. This helps make the decision easier at a time of tragedy."
Troy Daniel, 67, is a 1990 liver recipient from Starkville. He received the organ in Pittsburgh after Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1974 destroyed his liver.
"It's the difference between life and death," Daniel said. "They had already considered me to have end-stage liver disease. Since then, I'm doing pretty well."
Daniel had his surgery at one of about four locations around the country which were doing many liver transplants at the time. He said immunosuppressant drugs have made the surgeries more successful, and now transplants can be done at more locations.
Daniel received his liver from a 24-year-old man from New York. He had been on the list just nine days when the organ matching his needs became available. Today he continues to take immunosuppressant drugs as well as new medication that is battling his Hepatitis C. He intends to donate his own organs one day if possible.
"I agree with the people who say it is a sinful act to bury a viable organ with so many people on the waiting list," Daniel said. "It has certainly made a quantum difference in my life expectancy."
According to the Mississippi agency, commonly donated and needed organs include the heart, kidney, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue donations include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valve and tendons. Age is not necessarily an issue, but a person's medical condition at the time of death determines what can be donated. The decision to recover organs and tissue is made only after life-saving efforts have failed and the person is declared legally dead.
A National Donor Sabbath has been set for Nov. 8 through 12. It is a time when churches are asked to participate in efforts to educate members of their congregations about the need for organ and tissue donors. This observation began six years ago as a celebration of life and an opportunity for clergy and congregations to discuss their faith's doctrine on donation.
For more information on organ and tissue donation, contact the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency at (800) 690-8878 or visit them online at http://www.msora.org.