• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: The importance of deciding to be an organ donor while you’re still alive

April 24, 2019

With a constant need for organ transplants, it's never been more important for people to sign up to be an organ donor. Dr. Charles Rosen, director of the Transplant Center at Mayo Clinic, says deciding to be an organ donor while you're still alive can take a lot of unnecessary stress off your loved ones after you die.

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More than 114,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant at any given time in the U.S., and at least 80% of those people are waiting for a kidney.

"For kidneys, it largely defaults to waiting time," Dr. Rosen says. "But for liver, hearts and lungs it's largely based on the degree of illness and how sick someone is. And that defines their priority on the waiting list."

Dr. Rosen says living donors can help save people waiting for a kidney or a liver, but those waiting for other organs have to wait for a deceased donor.

And while it can be a tough decision, Dr. Rosen says if you're interested in saving another person's life with your organs after you die, it's important to sign up as a donor now while you're still alive. Doing so will save your family from having to make a difficult decision at a difficult time.

"All too often, we've heard from donor families or potential donor families that decided not to donate because it was such a stressful time in their lives that then three, six months later they felt some remorse for not doing that — even felt selfish," Dr. Rosen says. "Now no one could blame them, you know, for being in a difficult situation with an unexpected death in the family. But we need to do better as a community and make sure people are aware of the potential for organ donation."

He says the anguish and added drama all can be avoided if you sign up as a donor and take that difficult decision out of your family's hands.

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