Almost 1,500 Hoosier patients are waiting for an organ transplant and you can help, according to Tim Taber, MD, chief medical officer for the Indiana Donor Network, formerly the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. An individual on the transplant waiting list may receive an organ transplant from a deceased donor or, in the case of a kidney recipient, a deceased or living donor.
|Tim Taber, MD, chief medical officer
Indiana Donor Network
“Patients frequently ask their physicians about organ donation,” explained Dr. Taber. “Physicians can serve as a source of information for those who want to be living donors. They also can have a proactive discussion about deceased organ donation before a family has to decide for their loved one, and provide support when the family does decide to become a deceased donor family.”
Kidneys are the most frequently transplanted organ and the most in demand. In central Indiana, approximately 30-40 percent of kidney transplants are from living donors.
“Physicians should be aware of the need to discuss organ donation,” said Dr. Taber. “When doctors are asked by their patient about potentially being a living kidney donor, they should determine if the individual is healthy enough, provide information, and then refer them to the transplant center where this discussion will continue with the living donor transplant team.”
Dr. Taber noted that patients may also ask their doctors about the potential for deceased donation. Being proactive and having the discussion with one's family relieves that family of making such an important decision at a time of grief. This gift of life can provide up to eight life-saving solid organs for transplantation.
“I would encourage physicians, especially ED and ICU doctors, to continue to support an individual who is brain dead or nearly brain dead while the family works through the decision process of donation. Failure to support the donor may result in losing vital organs that could be transplanted,” commented Dr. Taber. “Once the decision is made that an individual will be a donor, the charges will be assumed by the organ procurement organization (OPO). There is no financial hardship on the family.”
Having the discussion
However, Dr. Taber cautioned that attending physicians should defer discussion of organ donation to the OPO as a family is making a decision about deceased donation. This is a discussion that should be initiated by the OPO representative.
In Indiana, drivers can indicate on their licenses if they wish to become organ donors, and the decision is honored much like a living will.
“The most important thing from an individual’s standpoint is to make one's decision about potentially being a deceased donor known to the family,” said Dr. Taber. “Making a decision about deceased donation is the last thing a family wants to talk about when they have just lost a loved one. I have had this conversation with my family to let them know my wishes should this situation arise, and I hope everyone has that discussion with their families after they read this article.”
Find an FAQ for patients about organ donation here.
The United Network for Organ Sharing offers education resources for physicians here.
The Association of Organ Procurement provides additional resources for both patients and physicians.
Read about the role of family physicians in discussing organ donation here.