Who Donates Organs?

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Science  01 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5731, pp. 47
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5731.47c

More than half the U.S. adult population has pledged to donate their organs after death—an increase of 26% since 1993, according to Gallup poll data presented last week to the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Medicine's committee on increasing rates of organ donation.

The poll found that readiness to donate one's organs varies depending on age, ethnicity, education, and income, but that males and females are equally likely to donate. The survey of 1900 people revealed that more than two-thirds of adults between 35 and 44 years old are ready to donate, compared with 55% of those between 18 and 24, and only 38% of people over 65. Many people do not realize that the organs of older patients can still make for valuable transplants, said bio-ethicist Laura Siminoff of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Whereas about 62% of whites and Asians are willing to donate organs, the figure falls to 47% among Hispanics and 25% among blacks. “Among African Americans, there is a high level of distrust with not just organ donation but also the medical system,” said Siminoff. And this is the group waiting the most for organs. Committee member Clive O. Callender, a surgeon at Howard University in Washington, D.C., noted that African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population but represent 35% of those on waiting lists for kidneys, the most commonly transplanted organ.

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