Feds Launch "50+" Campaign to Encourage Older Adults to Register as Organ Donors

The gap continues to widen.

In 1989, 18,000 Americans had placed themselves on the national waiting list for an organ, while in the same year 6000 Americans (both living and deceased) donated organs.

By 2010, the waiting list had ballooned to over 100,000, but there were fewer than 15,000 donors. Less than 30,000 transplants were performed that year.

Today, more than 100 persons die each week waiting for an organ that never comes.

To encourage more older adults to register as donors, the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services has launched a nationwide effort to promote organ donor awareness among older adults.

Called the "50+ Campaign," the initiative was developed to dispel the myth that "old people" cannot be suitable organ donors. In fact, people in their 90s have successfully donated organs.

For example, in 2011,

    * 60% of all people receiving organ transplants were 50+
    * 57% of kidney transplants were performed on people 50+
    * 71% of all people receiving liver transplants were 50+
    * 65% of all people on the waiting list for transplants are 50+

The federal government has set up a Web site -- www.organdonor.gov -- that provides the facts about organ donation, especially involving Americans age 50 and older. With just a few clicks of the mouse, visitors to the site can register in their home states to be organ donors.

Although some people may believe that no one would want their organs at death, due to their age or their illnesses, what matters is not what is medically possible today, but what is possible at the time of death. Even those who are reluctant to register as an organ donor should discuss their wishes with their health care agent.

In Tennesse, an individual may authorize a health care agent to make arrangements for the disposition of the individual's body, including the donation of organs for transplant purposes or the entire body for use by medical science.

Or, an individual may complete an Advance Care Plan, which includes provisions for electing organ donation, or perhaps just specific organs; or even no organ donation at all.

In addition to the HHS Web site organdonor.gov, visit "Donate Life Tennessee," at www.donatelifetn.org; and the Tennessee Department of Health's Web site, "Advance Directives for Health Care Decision Making," at http://health.state.tn.us/advancedirectives/FAQ.htm.

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