Organ donations in Illinois on the rise

Organ donation has increased to record levels in Illinois and northwest Indiana for the second consecutive year, marking a new milestone. For the first time ever, more than 300 families consented to organ donation–resulting in nearly 1,000 organs transplanted.

Only two other organ procurement organizations in the United States have ever reached this level of donation in a single year. “This means that what is taking place here in Illinois is truly a model for success in terms of educating the public about donation and saving the lives of patients awaiting organ transplants,” said Jerry Anderson, president/CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network.

In 2003, 972 lifesaving organs were made available for transplant because of the generous decisions of 309 families to consent to organ donation. That compares with 929 transplants made possible through 289 donors in 2002.

In addition to last year’s record rate of organ donation, 870 families consented to tissue donation, enabling tens of thousands of patients to receive medical transplants of bone, heart valves, and other tissues.

Anderson credits the region’s 2003 increases to the following:

• Hospitals’ commitment to referring potential donors to Gift of Hope for evaluation.

• Public awareness efforts by volunteers and partners that encouraged more families to donate upon a loved one’s death, including education programs and campaigns such as National Donate Life Month in April.

• The work of funeral directors and coroners/medical examiners with Gift of Hope to improve the donation process for families who choose to donate.

• The ongoing success of the “Life Goes On” program and the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry under Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

• Generosity of donors and their families.

Gift of Hope reports that 60 percent of the families its staff worked with in 2003 agreed to donate–remaining above the national average of 50 percent.

As the national organ transplant waiting list increased by more than 3,000 patients to more than 83,000 people from December 2002 to December 2003, the number of patients registered for organ transplants with Illinois’ eight transplant centers decreased from nearly 4,600 patients to fewer than 4,400.

Despite the welcome news, the ongoing shortage of donated organs meant more than 280 patients at Illinois transplant centers died in 2003 while waiting for an organ–a heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas or small intestine–that never became available.

For more information, contact Gift of Hope at 888/307-DON8 or visit For national data and updates, visit

Reprinted from Connections, Winter 2004, the publication of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network.

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