Organ Transplants & Health Care

Organ Transplants & Health Care

Organ Transplants & Health Care
Organ transplants involve removing a diseased organ from an ill patient and replacing it with a healthy one from an altruistic deceased or living organ donor. To be eligible for an organ transplant, you must be evaluated by a medical team for suitability. If you decide to become an organ donor, it is important to inform your family and put those wishes in writing.

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    Doctors faced many ethical issues regarding organ transplants. They were concerned about potential health risks to the person providing the organ. They did not know how the donor's health would be affected.
    They wondered if it were medically ethical to perform an operation on a donor that, at best, did not serve a medical purpose for him, and at worst, could harm or kill an otherwise healthy person.
    Doctors were not sure whether it would be acceptable to risk harming the donor if, in doing so, it would save the life of someone else. 
    After consulting with a wide range of fellow doctors, attorneys and clergy members representing numerous denominations, the doctors decided the possible greater good that could occur through an organ donation outweighed the relatively low risk of extracting it.
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    The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) is a database which keeps track of statistical information regarding organ transplants. 
    The SRTR maintains data on each facet of the transplantation and donation process that the registry collects from hospitals, local Organ Procurement Organizations and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Researchers, analysts, policy-makers and doctors use this information to set priorities and seek improvements in the organ donation process. Arbor Research Collaborative for Health, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., maintains the database.
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    An organ donor is anyone - living or dead - who provides an organ. The person receiving the organ is called a recipient. The act of collecting an organ from a donor is called retrieval, or procurement.
    Nearly anyone of age and average health can be an organ donor. People who have cancer, HIV or disease-causing bacteria in the bloodstream or body tissues, however, are exempt from organ donation. A decision about an organ's usability is made at the donor's time of death or, in the case of a living donor, during the process leading to a donation. 
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    Chris Klug: After a Transplant
    Snowboarder Chris Klug talks about how to maintain your health after an organ transplant.
     
     
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    The waiting list for organs was 98,000, as of April 2008. More than half of the people on the transplant list in 2006 had to wait longer than a year for an organ.

    Each organ has an individual waiting list - but they all share a common characteristic. There are fewer transplants available than organs needed.

    On average, the organ waiting list grows by about 106 people each day, and 18 die each day while waiting.

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    Many people choose to donate their organs, eyes, and tissues in the case of death. Most donors were otherwise healthy people who died in accidents or from a sudden illness such as a heart attack or stroke. Their family members gave permission for their tissues to be donated.
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    Yes, you can donate with a medical condition. Transplant professionals will evaluate the condition of your organs at the time of your death and determine if your organs are suitable for donation. You should consider yourself a potential organ and tissue donor, indicate your intent to donate on your driver's license, donor card, or state donor registry, and discuss your decision with family members.
    This answer is based on source information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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    Transplants performed from living donors may have several advantages compared to transplants performed from deceased donors:
    • Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
    • A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, making it easier to monitor. Some deceased donor kidneys do not function immediately, and as a result, the recipient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
    • Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both the donor and recipient.
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    Accepting a donor organ from another human being has several risks; the most common potential risks are primary non-function, rejection, infection and cancer. All transplant donors are screened very carefully prior to donation to minimize these risks.

    On occasion, an appropriate donor may become available whose past history places them at a slightly increased risk for viral infections, such as HIV, or hepatitis B or C. Hospitals are required by law to inform candidates if a donor becomes available that is considered high risk based on criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for transmission of disease, including:

    • Persons with history of non-medical injections of drugs
    • Persons with clotting factors disorder who received human-derived clotting factor concentration
    • Men who had sex with another man in the last five years
    • Persons who have had sex with any of the above people
    • Person who has been exposed to suspected HIV-infected blood/tissue in the past 12 months
    • Inmates of correctional systems

    While these are the risk factors noted by the CDC at this time, excluding these factors does not mean people are risk free from transmission of disease. All donors are screened prior to donation based on current screening practices. It is unlikely, but possible, that the screening may fail to detect a very early infection and an infection could be transmitted through the transplant.

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    The United States Public Health Services has a strict process to keep out tissues that could be unsafe. Before tissue is removed, all potential donors are screened for high-risk behaviors and transmittable diseases. This screening includes:
    • A complete physical exam and review of the donor's medical records.
    • Medical and social histories. Someone who knew the donor well will answer questions similar to those one answers when donating blood.
    If there are no risk factors, symptoms, or infections, the donor is tested for infectious diseases:
    • Blood samples from all tissue donors are tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
    If any of these tests are positive, the donor's tissues will not be used.