Source: Healthy Black Men
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ. Four thousand more people are added to the national waiting list each day. And if you are a black man on that list, you are in trouble.
Organ donors are always in short supply. There are far more people in need of a kidney, liver, or heart transplant than there are people willing to donate an organ. In fact, 18 people die daily before an organ becomes available.
According to the Office of Minority Health, African American men are 80% more likely to have chronic liver disease than non-Hispanic White men, and are also more likely to die from viral hepatitis. While 29% of the total candidates currently waiting for transplants are Black American, they comprised 14% of organ donors in 2009. So while each of us must decide whether organ donation is right for us individually, there are some facts to know.
First, just about anyone, at any age, can become an organ donor. Anyone younger than 18 needs to have the consent of a parent or guardian. For organ donation after death, a medical assessment will be done to determine what organs can be donated. Certain conditions, such as having HIV, actively spreading cancer, or severe infection would exclude organ donation.
Second, the extraordinary gift of organ donation is a gift. It’s illegal to pay someone for an organ. The transplant program, recipient’s insurance, or recipient should cover your expenses from tests and hospital costs related to a living organ donation. The transplant program can go over what coverage is available for additional medical services. Some or all of your travel costs may also be covered. But it’s illegal to charge a fee for organs.
African Americans make up the largest group of minorities in need of an organ transplant. But the number of organ transplants performed on Black Americans in 2009 was less than one fifth, or 20%, of the number of Black Americans currently waiting for a transplant. This means many, many more black people are in need or organ transplants than black people making donations. And it appears that many donations are happening after life, almost twice as many deceased donor organs from Black Americans were recovered in 2009 than organs from a living donor.
Like anything, it’s critical to gather as much information as you can before deciding to become a donor. Remember that this is your decision – and only your decision. Don’t let anyone sway that decision. Even if a friend or loved one is very sick, you have to consider how donating an organ might affect your own life.
To donate your organs after death, you can either register with your state’s donor registry at OrganDonor.gov, or fill out an organ donor card when you get or renew your driver’s license. And to become a living donor, you can either work directly with your family member or friend’s transplant team, or contact a transplant center in your area to find out who’s in need of an organ.