Until 3D printing technology develops to a medical standard or stem cells can be manipulated into creating new organs, there will always be a need for organ donors. There are some donations that can be given by living donors, but the majority of transplants that happen come because another has lost their life prematurely. The organ donor waiting list statistics show that while the thought of contemplating the outcome of one’s death can be troublesome, it is something that is very much needed.
Facts About the Organ Donor Waiting List
1. Someone is added to the organ donor wait list every 10 minutes in the United States.
2. 79. That’s the average number of people who receive an organ transplant every day. In 2013, 28,954 people received organ transplants.
3. There will be 21 people who die today because they were waiting for an organ transplant that never came. 7% of people who are added to the organ donor waiting list will eventually die before receiving an organ.
4. Organs that can be donated after death are skin, heart valves, ligaments, tendons and bones.
5. Living donors can donate a kidney or part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow.
6. The 5 year survival rate for someone who receives a kidney transplant: 92%.
7. In 2013, 57% of all deceased donors were Caucasian, 22% were African American, 15% Hispanic/Latino and 6% Asian, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.
8. As of January 2015, the national waiting list was 42% Caucasian, 30% African American, 19% Hispanic/Latino, and 8.6% Asian, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.
9. There are 2.5 million deaths that occur in the US every year. If every person were an organ donor, then even screening for ineligibility for health reasons, the organ donor wait list would be eliminated immediately.
10. Women [61%] out number men [39%] in their willingness to become an organ donor. These are also the same percentages that are seen when it comes to a willingness to be a living organ donor.
11. People who receive a lung transplant have the lowest 5 year survival rates at 55.2%.
12. Individuals above the age of 35 receive the vast majority of organ transplants that occur in the US every year.
13. The number of people in the US that are signed up to be an organ donor: 120 million. That’s a rate of about 1 in 3 people.
14. In September 2014, There were 123,175 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the U.S.15. Of those waiting for an organ, 101,170 are waiting for kidney transplants. About 3,000 new people are added to the kidney organ transplant waiting list every month.
16. In 2013, 5,733 kidney transplants took place thanks to the donation from a living donor.
17. Over 40% of the living donors of kidneys are between the ages of 35-49.
18. The most common living organ donation is from a full sibling to another full sibling.
19. Acceptable organ donors can range in age from newborn to 65 years or more.
20. In 2013, more than 47,000 corneas were transplanted.
21. The most difficult organ to procure is the pancreas, which has an average wait time of 2 years for those who are on the organ donor waiting list.
22. More than 1 million tissue transplants are done each year and the surgical need for tissue has been steadily rising.
23. 98% of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86% have heard of tissue donation.
24. 9 out of 10 Americans say that they support donating organs, but only 3 in 10 Americans actually know the steps required to become an organ donor.
25. 2,000. That’s the average number of children that are on the organ donor waiting list at any given time.
26. The number of corneas that were transplanted in 2013: 47,000.
27. 8 lives. That’s the number of people that just one organ donor can save with their donation.
28. A total of 50 different people can receive life enhancements from one tissue donor. More than 1 million people receive a tissue donation every year.
29. Those who have an Asian background have the shortest wait times for organs in the US. It takes an average of just 68 days to receive a new heart. In comparison, the average time on the wait list for a Caucasian is 246 days.
30. Over 617,000 transplants have occurred in the U.S. since 1988.
31. In most of the world, it is illegal to buy and sell human organs for transplantation.
32. 25% of the living organ donations that occur come from people who are not directly related to the recipient.
33. There is no cost to become a living donor. If you are matched up to a person in need of a transplant, then all medical costs for the procedure are not the responsibility of you or your family.
34. 52% of the people who had died waiting for an organ were still on the organ donor waiting list as being “inactive” as of 2007.
35. 10% of the names that are on the organ donor waiting list are duplicates because of the regional nature of the lists.
36. In the US, until 2012, up to 5% of the names that are placed on the organ donor waiting list can be people who are not American citizens. Now there are no restrictions in place.
37. 40% of foreign nationals who receive an organ transplant in the US say that they are in the country only to receive the operation.
38. According to USRDS, diabetes accounts for 44% of kidney failure, while another 26% is due to hypertension. Up to 80% of the kidney failure that happens in the US and results in the need for a transplant occurs from poor dietary choices.
39. 80% of the organs that are donated will stay within the same region where the donation occurs.
40. Organ transplants are the most thoroughly documented and transparent medical procedure that is practiced in the United States.
41. Spain has the highest organ donation rates in the world today, with 35.3 organ donors per million people. In the US, the rate is 26 per million. Spain has an opt-out policy, meaning citizens are automatically organ donors unless they opt out.
42. In Israel, people who are listed as organ donors receive a priority placement on their organ donor waiting list compared to those who are not. Despite this fact, they have just 10.8 organ donors per million people.
43. It has been legal in Iran to sell a kidney for transplantation for over 10 years.
44. Ecuador has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world, with just 2.2 people per million listed as an organ donor.
Organ donations come few and far between. Many people are forced to wait several years for a transplant to occur. Even if they are lucky enough to get a new organ, there is no guarantee that their body won’t reject it. Organ transplant recipients have to take medication for life. Yet despite these challenges, there wouldn’t be any hope at all without an organ donor first.
That’s why it is so important to be listed as an official donor. Just signing the back of a driver’s license or telling someone about a personal desire to be an organ donor won’t generally authorize the process.
Why Are So Many People Waiting For So Long?
The problem with the organ donor waiting list is the its structure actually lends to some inaccurate data. Although there are over 100,000 people on the overall list, there can be some duplication because the lists in the US are based on regions. Someone in desperate need may be placed on multiple regional lists to procure an organ because of the severity of their disease or condition.
This structure sometimes causes people to wait for a long time to receive their organ. There are also rules in place about when an adult can have an organ transplanted into a child, so sometimes more severe pediatric cases are skipped because there is doubt that a donated organ can fit into its biological location during surgery.
Since the organ donor waiting lists were created in 1984, a number of lives have been saved and medical care has improved for recipients. By continuing to work hard on the medical science and by having organ donors widely available, the wait list could be eliminated.
It’s time to talk about changing the system. Although the US has one of the highest organ donor rates in the world, the number is incredibly small. In real terms, 999,974 out of every 1 million people are not official organ donors, though many have signed the back of a driver’s license to say they are.
If you are not an organ donor right now or are not sure you’ve taken official steps to become one, then do so today. That one act could save 8 lives and that is an impressive living legacy to leave behind.