Tennesseans support organ donation in theory but not in practice

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 8/15/16. Dr. Dan Fisher stands in the operating room before working on a patient Monday, August 15, 2016. Dr. Fisher has completed 550 kidney transplants in the Chattanooga area. Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.
TIMES FREE PRESS | Steve Johnson

Ask Tennesseans if they approve of organ donations and the response is almost unanimous — 95 percent say they are a good idea, according to Jill Grandas, executive director of Tennessee Donor Services, the nonprofit company that coordinates organ transplants in the state.

But check the list of those who have actually signed up to donate their organs, and the percentage drops to less than 40, Grandas said in an interview Wednesday.

As a result, far more Tennesseans are in need of an organ donation than will ever receive one.

"There are roughly 110,000 recipients looking for kidneys on a list right now," said Dr. Dan Fisher, a surgeon with University Surgical Associates in Chattanooga who has done more than 550 kidney transplants in his 27-year-career. "We do roughly 18,000 kidney transplant operations a year [nationally]. The ratio is about 6 to 1."

Nationally, about 22 people die every day because they cannot find a donor for a needed heart, lung, kidney, liver or other vital organ, according to the American Transplant Foundation. Continue reading
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