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Organ donation in a pandemic

Kaicie Boeglin

Opinions Editor

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New practice paradigms and processes are in place regarding organ donation and COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic issues regarding adequate donor evaluation and consent as well as many other situations have arised. Organ recovery and organ procurement are a main concern amongst the high numbers of donors dying. Professionals question whether hospitals have accurate resources to tell if organs have been in contact or contaminated with the coronavirus. Individual hospitals along with the transplant center have taken on new mandates to accept and evaluate organ offers for patient candidates.

Solid organ transplantation is considered highly necessary and essential and earned the distinction by the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) as a tier 3b procedure. Through the pandemic organ donation is to continue even when other elective surgical procedures are postponed indefinitely. There were 25,606 procedures done in 2020, which made a dent in the steady incline of surgeries each year. Organ transplant rates were steadily increasing since 2012. In 2019 the U.S. made a record of 39,719 transplant surgeries.

Medical guidance from the American Society of Transplantation, The Transplantation Society and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations state recommend not going forth with a transplantation of organs from a donor known to have the virus. However, deceased donors can give their organs if they were recovered from COVID-19 for at least 28 days, received two negative test results or had a medical ruling of a complete resolution of symptoms. All humans are capable of being organ donors, even those with an underlying medical condition.

On average 17-20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. 90% of adults support organ donation but only 60% are registered donors. The final quarter of 2019 and beginning quarter of 2020 analyzed a new name added to the transplant list every nine and half minutes. For every 1,000 people that die only three die in a way that allows for organ procurement. Automobile accidents are the leading example of death resulting in organ donations. COVID-19 related mandates have led to a drop in the number of accidents during the pandemic.

One donor can save eight lives. Each individual human is capable of saving eight others through organ donation. In the best-case scenario each deceased organ donor can donate two kidneys, the liver, both lungs, the heart, the pancreas and the intestines. As of 2014 hands and faces also made it on the organ transplant list. Living organ donors can donate one kidney, a lung, or- a portion of the liver, pancreas or intestine.

Deceased donors can also supply corneas, the middle ear, skin, heart valves, bones, veins, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. This supply is stored in tissue banks until used to restore sight, cover burns, repair hearts, replace veins and mend damaged connective tissue or cartilage.

By being an organ donor you give the gift of life, senses and hope to a recipient. Not all donors need to have specific matches; for example corneal donations do not need a match of age, eye color or blood type. 95% of all corneal transplants are successful in restoring vision and are becoming a top priority in transplants.

The pandemic did not pause the need of organ transplants; surgeons are being stripped from their practices and thrown in the pit as more than 114,000 patients are waiting on the transplant list. As the number of deaths around the world rises it is important to become an organ donor. Life is unexpected and the need for helping humanity does not go unnoticed.


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