How to Increase Diversity Among Organ Donors: Doctors Weigh In

When a patient needs an organ, tissue or bone marrow, it is often a life and death situation. Being on the national transplant list does not necessarily mean a patient will receive one, leading to many tragic deaths. If a family member is not a match, the patient is reliant on someone being kind enough to give up a part of their body, and oftentimes they’re reliant on someone else dying and being signed up to be an organ donor.

Some startling statistics from :

According to the, people of most races and ethnicities in the U.S. donate in proportion to their representation in the population. The need for transplant in some groups, however, is disproportionately high, frequently due to a high incidence of conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes in those populations.

Although organs are not matched according to race/ethnicity, and people of different races frequently match one another, all individuals waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of receiving one if there are large numbers of donors from their racial/ethnic background. This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—critical qualities for donor/recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity. A greater diversity of donors may potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone.

So how do we increase diversity of donors to help those in need of organs, tissues and eyes? We here at SERMO, decided to ask the community. We posted the question to our members in the Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Here are the results:

diversity in organ donation results

The poll sparked debate among the doctors, with some saying that creating a market for organ donation would help solve the problem and others arguing that would cause corruption and a disadvantage for poorer individuals:

One emergency medicine doctor from the U.S. said, “Allow payment and a market for organs. Nothing clears up shortages as well as markets and nothing creates shortages and disadvantages minorities, like the centrally planned system currently in use, no matter how much propaganda it generates.”

A family physician from the U.S. responded, “Yeah, but then more corruption sneaks in. Who would pay for the organs? Patients? That would create a clear disadvantage for many. I doubt third parties or the government are going to pay for organs. It is hard enough to get them to pay for generic asthma inhalers. So, is it going to be the highest bidder? And you can’t just have a marker for organs because the organ must match the person seeking it. I just see many chances for gaming the system and turning this into a money game rather than being about medical care.”

That same family physician suggested donation drives and increased education efforts to tell people how they can help.

A Canadian doctor added, “People need to be educated and frequently reminded of the need through multiple means (schools, doctor visits, social media, television, radio, organizations, etc). It is also very important that ALL people are asked at a time when they can easily document their preference. The process to give consent regarding this must not be labour intensive.”

Another Canadian doctor said, “Advertising and let doctors discuss it (another thing to do) or a poster in the waiting room will help. I don’t think that minority do not like to donate. Maybe we don’t advertise enough in their local TV channels or local newspapers… maybe it is a not known subject for them.”

SERMO polls the social network on a variety of hot topics each week. For information on the methodology of SERMOsays sentiment polls, please check out Stay tuned to this blog for the results of our next one.

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