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13 April 2007
Saving Someone’s Life in Less Than a Minute

Dr. Randal Wood, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Jacksonville State University, donated his kidney to his brother Ron Wood during the December break.

By Anne Muriithi
Graduate Assistant
JSU News Bureau

Each month, 3,700 people are added to the national organ transplant waiting list, which topped more than 92,000 in 2006 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly half of these patients die waiting for a life-saving transplant. Their lives are in your hands, or rather, in your body, through organ donation. The DHHS says experts suggest each of us could save or help as many as 50 people by being an organ and tissue donor.

Organ donation is the removal of specific tissues of the human body from a person who has recently died or from a living donor for the purpose of organ transplanting or grafting them into other persons. Organ tissues are removed in procedures similar to surgery. Newborns to senior citizens and people of all backgrounds may be donors. The Congressional Kidney Caucus reported nearly 10 percent of the patients currently waiting for liver transplants are young people less than 18 years of age.

Organs that can be donated after death include: the heart, intestines, kidneys, lungs, liver and pancreas. The following tissues can be grafted: bones, corneas, femoral veins, great saphenous veins, heart valves, skin grafts, small saphenous veins and tendons. Organs that can be donated from living donors include the lung, partial liver and the kidney.

There are basically four different legislative approaches to the regulation of organ donation. The most restrictive is the "consent solution," according to which the donor has to explicitly consent to a donation during his/her lifetime. The "extended consent solution" includes the possibility of near relatives consenting to the donation, if the donor has not explicitly dissented. On the other hand, the least restrictive approach is the "dissent solution," to which the donor must explicitly dissent to donation during his/her lifetime. According to the "extended dissent solution,” relatives may dissent in the event the potential donor has not consented.

Although 89 percent of the U.S. population favors donation, only 1 in 4 actually consent - leaving the rate of donation around 5,000 a year, far below the demand. The Medical College of Wisconsin says many people just have misconceptions about organ donation. “Many people erroneously believe that a cost to the family will be assessed, that an open casket would not be possible for a donor, that emergency room staff will be less diligent in life-saving efforts, or that organ donation is contrary to widely held religious beliefs.”

Under United States law, the regulation of organ donation is left to states within the limitations of the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1968. Each state's Uniform Anatomical Gift Act seeks to streamline the process and standardize the rules among the various states, but it still requires that the donor make an affirmative statement during her or his lifetime that she or he is willing to be an organ donor. In an effort to encourage donation, when a person is obtaining a driver’s license in Alabama, he/she will be asked, “Do you wish to be an organ donor?” Saying “yes” means you have decided to give organs and tissues after your death to save someone else’s life. It is also possible to go online to and register.

However, it is very important that you communicate your wishes to relatives who can still dissent even in the presence of evidence of explicit consent by the potential organ donor (driver's license, living will, registry information, etc.). As such, many organ donation campaigns in the United States encourage families to talk about one's decision to donate or not to donate.

The Alabama Organ Center says, “Organ and tissue donation is a positive experience for the donor families. It helps families to know that out of their tragedy comes a Life saving operation for their fellow man.” According to AOC statistics, Alabama alone has nearly 3,000 people on a list waiting for organ donation. Someone close to you, or even yourself, might be added to this list soon.

Dr. Randal Wood, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Jacksonville State University, donated his kidney to his brother Ron Wood during the December break. Ron Wood, who is a survivor of five cancer bouts, needed a kidney because both of his kidneys were failing to function effectively. In order for Dr. Wood to donate a kidney to his brother, he had to have the same blood type. The procedure was successful, and Dr. Wood was discharged from the hospital after four days. He was able to come back to school for the spring semester. He suffered no complications and continues to function well with one kidney. Dr. Wood is an example of a living related donor. A living related donor is a donor who gives organs to family members or friends with whom they have an emotional investment.

The decision to become an organ donor takes less than a minute and can give someone else a whole lifetime.

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