Group works to spur organ donors

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Every driver's license says either "yes" or "no," but the answer to the question isn't quite that simple. Will you donate your organs when you die?

While the declaration on a driver's license or a donor card is a legal document, in practice, donation can not be carried out without consent from next of kin.

That's why the Donor Network of Arizona is urging people to discuss donation with their families for National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, April 16 through 23.

The Donor Network of Arizona is the federally designated recovery organization for the state. It works with hospitals, transplant centers and institutions to oversee the distribution of organs and tissues for transplant.

This week, the network is campaigning to increase awareness of the benefits and facts about organ donation.

According to the network, there are over 400 people in Arizona waiting for donated organs or tissues, but more than 40 percent of those people will die waiting for them.

While organ transplants have obvious benefits, tissue can also be used to restore sight, prevent amputations and replace bone and tissue damaged by cancer, infections and injuries.

In 1993, there were 4,845 organ donors. According to the network, that number could increase if more people knew more about donating.

"We need to make people aware of the need for donation. Transplant work saves thousands of lives daily," said Lisa Karahalios spokeswoman for the Donor Network of Arizona.

Karahalios said eight to ten people die every day waiting for a donor organ.

Some of the myths that the donor network is refuting include the misconception that donation disfigures the body and does not allow an open casket funeral.

The network said that the donations are done very carefully, and the body is carefully reconstructed to normal appearance.

There is also some concern that donation is against religious beliefs. According to the American Council on Transplantation, most major religions support donation and generally believe it is "for the benefit of others and a demonstration of faith and love for one's fellow man." Most of the religions suggest that the choice be left to the individual.

But the most important part of deciding to donate is telling family members about the donor's wishes since the family will have the final say at the time of death.

A recent Gallup Poll showed that 93 percent of the people surveyed would donate their loved one's organs if they had discussed it with them beforehand. Only 47 percent would donate without a prior discussion.

"People don't like to think about it, or an individual chooses to donate without telling their family they won't be aware of their wishes," Karahalios said. "The family has ultimate authority."

Anyone interested in obtaining a donor card or more information can call the donor network at 1-800-94-DONOR.

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