More than 500,000 organ transplants have been performed in the United States since October 1987, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) website on May 19, 2015. To put this bland statistic into perspective, there are only 34 cities in the U.S. with larger populations! And 5 entire states have no cities with even 20% (100,000) of this number of people. A mind numbing number of people who have, thus far, benefited from transplantation. But, so many more might have been saved if there had been more organs.
Transplant technologies have become such a significant component of the standard of care in medicine that the general public may no longer be amazed by transplantation, instead, simply taking it for granted. And, perhaps a sense of entitlement to having a transplant also contributes to the generally lackadaisical attitude many seem to have. Such a lack of awe is dangerous for multiple reasons. To begin, transplantation remains technically, medically and emotionally challenging. Even under the best circumstances, problems can pop up. For example, every transplant is performed under general anesthesia, an approach which has small but significant risk. And the patients undergoing transplantation are older and sicker than ever before. Why? Because medical care has become so good, because so many effective anti-rejection medications are available, and because people are living longer than ever before. All of these factors contribute to a surging group of transplant candidates who might benefit from kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, intestine transplants. The U.S. list has topped 123,000 people who are currently waiting. At the current rate, 18 are dying every day. If we only had enough organs to be able to perform these transplants!
These huge numbers should help everyone to understand how important donation is. These procedures have become so commonly needed, that at least 1/3 of people in the U.S. have a personal connection to someone who has undergone, has died waiting for, or is in need of a transplant. Beyond the ties to transplant recipients that so many of us have, it is well known that the majority of Americans are in favor of organ donation. In a 2012 government survey, 95% were strongly in support, or in support (see below)! Now it is time to make the connection between thought and action.