April is National Donate Life Month

With more than 8,000 people in the commonwealth awaiting an organ transplant, and thousands of others waiting for a tissue transplant, there is a critical need for Pennsylvanians to register as designated organ and tissue donors. “In April, during National Donate Life Month, we honor donors who have provided others with a second chance for a healthy life and encourage more Pennsylvanians to share this precious gift,” says Susan Stuart, President and CEO, Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) based in Pittsburgh. “Although we know there is public support for organ and tissue donation, we need more individuals to take that next step and register to become a donor.”

“By saying yes to organ and tissue donation, one person can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organ and tissue donation can free people from dialysis treatments, give the gift of sight, repair joints, save limbs or help burn victims heal,” says Howard Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program. “Each day, 18 people on the national organ waiting list die because an appropriate match wasn’t found in time. The likelihood of finding a match increases with more registered donors.”

Pennsylvania driver’s license and identification card holders can take action immediately by going to PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website and saying “yes” to organ donation. Individuals who register as donors will receive a designation card to carry with them until it’s time to renew their driver’s license or identification card. More than 4,000 Pennsylvanians have used the online registration service since its inception in 2006, but many more donors are needed.

More than 85 percent of the American population supports organ donation but those numbers aren’t translating into action in Pennsylvania. In the commonwealth, which ranks 30 out of 50 states, fewer than 50 percent of eligible donors placed the organ donor designation on their driver’s license or state identification card.. To see the statistics for Pennsylvania by county go to http://www.donatelifepa.org/media-press/stats-by-county/.

Donor eligibility is not impacted by age or race. However, there are just a few health conditions, including HIV and fast-spreading cancers, which would make individuals ineligible to donate.

The gift of organ donation is also supported by all major religions. Because some conditions and blood types are more common in certain ethnic and racial populations, the federal Department of Health and Human Services especially encourages minorities to consider donation.

Pennsylvanians can register to become an organ and tissue donor by visiting http://www.donatelife-pa.org or by saying “YES” when renewing their driver’s license or state identification cards at any PennDOT Driver’s License and Photo Center.