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Winnebago County below state average for registered organ, tissue donors

May 11, 2011

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

Although nearly 5,000 Illinois residents and 110,000 people nationwide wait for lifesaving transplants, only 60 percent of Illinoisans are registered as organ/tissue donors.

In Winnebago County, only 56 percent are registered. This is despite the fact that 87 percent of Illinoisans think it is “the right thing to do,” according to a 2006 statewide poll.

Donate Life Illinois is stepping up its efforts to educate and register those Illinoisans who haven’t yet taken action.

Dave Bosch from Gift of Hope, the organ and tissue donation network in Illinois, addressed a number of misconceptions that people might have as reasons for not wanting to donate.

1. ER doctors won’t try to save me if they know I’m a donor.

“There are people who don’t register to be a donor because they think the doctors won’t try to save them,” said Bosch. “The craziness of that statement is difficult to argue—the idea that a physician would let someone die just to recover organs is illogical. The best safeguard that seems to make people feel better is that by law, the physicians who treat you at a hospital after you come in after an accident or injury cannot be the same doctors who many, many hours later recover the organs for a transplant.”

2. I’m too old or sick…no one wants my organs.

“While there generally is an age limit to when we use organs,” Bosch explained, “there are so many other things that might factor in…the reality is that medicine is always changing, the need is always changing, and it all depends on how viable the organs are when someone dies. We tell people that there are plenty of tests that are done to test the viability of an organ for transplant and that can always be done later. The best thing is to register and let us sort it out later.”

3. Only rich or wealthy people get transplants.

“That’s because that’s who you hear about,” said Bosch. “Every year, there are thousands of people who get transplants that you don’t hear about because they are your neighbors. The stories about somebody who’s rich or famous—those are the stories you hear about—[for example] Steve Jobs, the head of Apple. They think rich, wealthy people are the only people who receive organs. No. Many other people received organs the same day, but you don’t hear about it. … More important, there is a waiting list. You are nameless, richless…and what happens to you, when you are put on the list, the only criteria that matters is your blood type and body size. They also factor in how long you’ve been waiting and how sick you are. There is a national waiting list that matches people. There are strict national criteria.”

4. It doesn’t matter, race determines who gets transplants.

“There are some criteria,” admitted Bosch, “especially with kidney transplants where you match tissue types. Your tissue type will match more readily with someone of your own race. But that’s not the only important factor.”

5. My religion does not allow me to be a donor.

“The reality is that all major religions support organ and tissue donation,” stated Bosch. “Some religions have statements that say donation is the right thing to do. Others leave it up to personal choice. A couple things happen with religion. There are a couple cultural issues that people deal with, like burying the body whole. But the reality is, all major religions support organ donation.”

From the May 11-17, 2011 issue

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