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Ask The Doc: Why should I become an organ donor?

Rodrigo Vianna, M.D. | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.

There is no greater gift than the gift of life. Organ and tissue donation gives thousands of people each year – many of them close to death – a second chance at living.

Josie Flores-Centrella never discussed organ donation with her family.

“We never talked about death,” she said. “It was taboo.”

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Rodrigo Vianna, M.D.

Then, in 2000, her mother suffered a brain aneurysm and was pronounced brain dead. Flores-Centrella was approached by a representative from the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency, an organization that obtains organs for clinical transplantation throughout South Florida and transports them to transplant centers within the United States. The family joined others nationwide that faced a tough decision at a devastating time in their lives.

President Barack Obama recently signed a proclamation designating April 2014 as National Donate Life Month. “We celebrate those who provide vital organ, eye, and tissue donations, and we bring new hope to the growing list of men, women, and children who still need a donation,” the proclamation reads. “I encourage all Americans to think about their loved ones and to consider becoming a donor.”

Making the decision to become an organ donor often stirs up a mix of emotions, including fear and uncertainty. Common misconceptions and myths about organ donation can cause some people to hesitate or choose not to do it. But it is important to educate yourself and base your decision on facts, such as these:

• If you are an organ donor and you suffer a traumatic injury, stroke or aneurysm, doctors will make every attempt possible to save your life. There is no conflict between saving lives and using organs for transplant.

• No major religion opposes organ donation. If you have questions regarding your faith’s position, consult your religious leader.

• Costs related to organ, tissue, and eye donation will be covered by the donor programs; the cost is not the responsibility of the donor family.

• Organ, tissue and eye donation is only done following the declaration of death by a doctor not involved in transplantation.

• Anyone can be considered for donation, regardless of their age and medical history.

Making the decision to donate life: Know the facts

• More than 122,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants.

• Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.

• An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

• One person can save the lives of eight people with their organ donations and help improve the lives of at least 200 others through tissue donation.

• Ninety percent of Americans say they support donation, but only 30 percent know the essential steps to take to be a donor. African-Americans are the largest minority group in need of an organ transplant.

• African Americans have higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure than Caucasians, increasing the risk of organ failure.

• Thirty percent of those currently waiting for organ donations are African-American.

Sources: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services