Daytonian Karen Stokes underwent surgery Friday to become one of the lucky few to receive the transplanted organ she needs to survive, according to University Hospital in Cincinnati.
But there are about 3,000 Ohioans waiting for transplants right now, and there aren’t nearly enough donors to go around, said Cathi Arends, community relations director for the Dayton region of Life Connection of Ohio.
Life Connection facilitates the completion of transplant procedures and promotes organ donation through educational programs.
“Ohio is doing well,” said Arends. “About 54 percent of eligible people are registered to be organ donors, and that’s positive.”
Of course, that means nearly half the adults in the state have not decided to be organ donors. Psychologists and pollsters who have studied the issue say choosing whether to be an organ donor is a complex personal decision.
About 95 percent of those who elect to be donors in Ohio register themselves as organ and tissue donors at the time they apply for or renew their driver’s licences, Arends said. More information is available by calling Life Connection of Ohio at 1-800-535-9206, or register online at www.donatelife ohio.org.
Those who choose not to register as organ donors often base their decision on their desire that their body remain intact after death, researchers say. A study in the July 2008 edition of the Journal of Health Psychology found that “cognitive-based factors (such as knowledge about donation) are less influential on the decision to donate than noncognitive variables such as the desire to maintain bodily integrity, worries that signing a donor card might ‘jinx’ a person, and medical distrust.” (Your body is kept in tact--it's not mutilated or anything. You look normal for the burial. No worries there. This isn't some sort of Frankenstein monster procedure.)
Medical distrust seems to be a universal issue. A report in the October/November 2006 issue of the Journal of Health Communication said among the main reasons survey respondents in southern California gave for rejecting donation was “fear that medical personnel might withhold care from identified organ donors, suggesting lack of knowledge and mistrust of the health care system.”
Religion can have a complicated impact on the decision to be a donor, according to a study in the 2007 edition of Health Communication. In that study, women with strong religious connections were likely to be donors because they saw donation as a charitable act. Men, on the other hand, were inhibited from donating by religious-based concerns about keeping the body intact. (Note: All major religions--every single one!--is in favor of organ donation as an altruistic act. All of them)
Arends said that major religions are generally supportive of organ donation, but she suggests that people with concerns on religious grounds should discuss the issue with their own spiritual leaders.
A Life Connection fact sheet states that a single donor can provide organs and tissues for up to 50 recipients. Donation does not restrict funeral services, and the families of donors will not pay or receive fees when organs are recovered for transplant.