Thousands of organs are lost before they can be donated. Here’s how to save them.

VOX | Ted Alcorn

There is something near-miraculous about the organ donation system, which allows tens of thousands of Americans a year to give up parts of their body they no longer need to extend the lives of others.

And yet tens of thousands of viable organs are also lost each year rather than going to patients desperately in need of them. Researchers recently estimated there are only half as many donors as there are deaths with potential to donate.

Given how life-changing an organ transplant can be, and the scale of demand, how could we ensure that every potential donation finds its way to a recipient?

We tend to focus on the surgeon as the key figure in the equation. But as it turns out, the success of organ donation hinges just as much on other links in the chain.

If we supported the entire organ transplant system and held it to better account, we would ensure that more organs from the dying could become a gift of life for someone else.

Here’s how that might work.

There’s an urgent need to increase the number of organ transplants

2017 was a record year for organ donation and transplantation, as the number of deceased people whose organs were recovered for donation surpassed 10,000 for the first time. Those donations, combined with organs offered by nearly 6,000 living people, together meant that 35,000 desperately ill people got lifesaving transplants. But that same year, more than 50,000 people were added to the waitlist.

Of those people currently on the US transplant waitlist, 81 percent need a kidney, 12 percent need a liver, and the rest need a heart, lung, pancreas, or intestine. They suffer from conditions as varied as diabetes, alcohol abuse, or hepatitis C, but what they have in common is that one of their vital organs is irreversibly failing. Continue reading