Sometimes the biggest contribution that a person makes in life is after death. This is especially true for those who donate organ and tissues.
"I work from the perspective of giving hope to people," says David Dreyfus, transplant education coordinator in the University Transplant Program at Rush. "Unfortunately, one person's hope often comes from another's tragedy. Like when an organ becomes available because a young person has been in an accident."
For some organs, however, this doesn't have to be the case. You can donate some organs, like kidneys, while you're still living. "If someone is waiting for a kidney they should look into getting a healthy relative to donate," suggests Dreyfus. "There are a lot of positive aspects to this, especially since you're more likely to get a good match."
The waiting time for people waiting for an organ donated by a stranger can be long. "For the more common blood types like O, the wait can be two to four years long. For rarer blood types like AB the wait can be three to five years," says Dreyfus.
"The sad thing is that there can be difficulties even when someone wanted to donate his or her organs at death," says Dreyfus. "Sometimes because of the emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding a loved one's death it becomes difficult for the family to allow the donation to take place."
A new state registry in Illinois is helping with this situation. Illinois has set up an online registry called "First Person Consent" The First Person Consent registry establishes a more legally binding decision than the notification on the driver's license. "We don't need to ask permission of next of kin to accept the organ or tissue donation," says Dreyfus.
People often assume that signing the back of a driver's license is all that's necessary to be an organ donor. "Still, the next of kin was often making the final decision," says Dreyfus. "It's been estimated that one in five people who agreed to be organ donors had their wishes overruled by family members in the state of Illinois before this registry was established."
"Organ donation is a wonderful thing that you can do for someone you love while you're alive, or for a stranger after death," says Dreyfus. "It's probably the best gift you'll ever give."
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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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