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Health Information Getting the Word Out on Organ Donation

Organ and tissue transplants save lives. Unfortunately, the number of patients who need transplants far exceeds the donor supply available. Rush University Medical Center, one of only five transplant centers in Illinois, has created an internal organ donation collaborative to help people have a better chance of getting the life-saving transplants they need.

"Collaborative initiatives, such as the program at Rush, provide the needed focus and commitment to organ donation that could save thousands of lives this year alone," says Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MSHA, cardiothoracic surgeon at Rush and president of the United Network for Organ Sharing, the group responsible for our nation's transplant system.

Of the more than 100,500 men, women and children in need of transplants nationwide, over 4,700 are in Illinois. What's more, on average, 18 people die every day in the United States while waiting for a transplant.

The collaborative at Rush is working to increase the number of donors so as to decrease the number of deaths by educating people about donation. The mission of the Rush collaborative mirrors that of the national, government-sponsored collaborative, but its efforts are focused on the Chicago area, according to Alison Walsh, administrative director of the department of cardiovascular thoracic surgery and heart transplantation at Rush and institutional leader of the Rush collaborative.

How to Become a Donor

A main point of education for the Rush collaborative is Illinois' new organ and tissue donor registry. Previously, a donor's wishes could be overturned by family members because additional consent was needed at the time of donation. As of 2006, Illinois residents can ensure that their wishes will be respected by registering as a donor. If you are interested in becoming a donor, here is what you can do:

  • Register to become an organ and tissue donor. You can register online at or on your Illinois driver"s license renewal form after January, 2008.
  • If you registered before 2006, you need to register again. Since the new law came into effect in 2006, you need to be added into the new registry. Otherwise, additional consent will be needed at the time of donation.
  • Discuss your wishes with your family. It's good to get your family talking so that they know your wishes if the situation arises.

Facts about Organ and Tissue Donation
There are common misconceptions about organ and tissue donations that the collaborative at Rush works to dispel. Here are some facts about organ and tissue donation:

  • Being an organ or tissue donor will not affect the medical care you receive while you are alive. Your doctors will still work to save your life first.
  • Even if you are older or have health problems, you still can be a donor.
  • Your organs and tissues will go to those who need them the most. There is no priority given to wealthy or powerful people.
  • Donation will not cost you or your family any money. The costs for the procedure will be paid by the recipients or their medical insurance providers.
  • Organ and tissue donation will not interfere with having an open-casket funeral.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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