The number of people waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States has exceeded 50,000 for the first time, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which maintains the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
As of October 1, 2001, there were 78,350 people on the national organ transplantation waiting list, of whom 50,004 await a kidney. Only four years ago, in July 1997, the number of people waiting for all types of organ transplants first surpassed 50,000.
While the demand for kidneys and other organs rapidly increases, the number of those donating organs upon death (cadaveric donors) increases only slightly. The total number of people waiting for a kidney increased 8.5 percent from the last day of 1999 to the end of 2000. In 2000, 13,372 kidney transplants were performed at centers in the United States, an increase of 6.5 percent from 1999; however, transplants from cadaveric kidney donors increased only 0.7 percent. The primary increase in recent kidney transplants has come from volunteer living donors; these donors increased 16 percent between 1999 and 2000.
According to UNOS President Jeremiah G. Turcotte, M.D., "The number one problem facing the field of transplantation today is the lack of available organs. While we continue to meet the needs of patients as best we can, we must improve upon the public's willingness to make and share a commitment to donation."
Addressing the severe shortage of organ donors in this country is a top priority of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. The Secretary launched his "Gift of Life Donation Initiative" on April 17, 2001. Major features of the initiative include the "Workplace Partnership for Life," involving HHS' collaboration with companies and employee groups of all sizes to make information on donation available; the development of a model donor card; the creation of a national forum on donor registries to explore options and guidelines for registry development; support for the creation of a national Gift of Life medal to be presented to donor families; and the development of a model curriculum on organ donation to be included in driver education classes. The Secretary will continually review and enhance this initiative with the goal of making organ transplantation more available to those in need.
"The fact that more than 50,000 men, women and children are waiting for a kidney in this country emphasizes the importance of our donation initiative and continuing efforts to promote donation awareness efforts," said Thompson. "We must advance the life saving potential of transplantation through the expansion of the number of Americans who donate the gift of life."
To access more information about the Gift of Life initiative or download the model donation card, visit www.organdonor.gov.
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), is a nonprofit charitable organization. UNOS brings together, on behalf of the OPTN, medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy. UNOS provides the OPTN with a functional, effective management system incorporating the UNOS Board of Directors, committees and regional membership structure to operate OPTN elements and activities.