HONOLULU – With the need for donated organs far exceeding the number available for transplantation in the U.S., the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy during its Interim Meeting this week aimed at increasing organ donation rates—particularly among minority populations with historically low donation rates.
While reports show that the vast majority of U.S. adults support organ donation, only about half are actually registered as organ donors and only three in 1,000 of those registered actually become donors after death. Given the significant need to increase the number of organs available for donation, the AMA’s new policy calls for the development of public education programs that are tailored to address the factors that most influence people’s attitudes toward organ donation in order to improve their willingness to donate.
“Although the numbers of organ donors and transplants has been growing slowly over the last two decades, there aren’t nearly enough donated organs to satisfy the number of people in need of transplants. We know this is due in large part to the factors that influence a person’s decision on whether to designate themselves as a donor—ranging from religious and cultural beliefs to family influence, beliefs about body integrity after death, and limited knowledge about organ donation,” said AMA Board Member Albert J. Osbahr III, M.D. “We will continue to support the implementation of programs aimed at improving the public’s willingness to donate and help identify other approaches to encourage more people to become organ donors.”
To help ensure sufficient organ donation nationwide, the AMA’s new policy also calls for educational programs targeted to populations with historically low organ donation rates. Of the nearly 120,000 people who are on the national transplant waiting list, the proportion of racial and ethnic minority patients is higher than the corresponding proportion of racial and ethnic minorities who are donors. In fact, African Americans make up nearly 30 percent of the waiting list and Hispanics make up approximately 20 percent, yet only about 16 percent of donors are African American and only 14 percent of donors are Hispanic.