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GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri's need for organ donors remains critical

Monday, February 21, 2011 | 11:42 a.m. CST

Enough people to populate a small city — over 100,000 — are waiting for an organ donation in the United States. Unfortunately, thousands never get the call saying that a suitable donor organ — and a second chance at life — has been found.

It can be hard to think about what's going to happen to your body after you die, let alone donating your organs and tissue. But being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaver.

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— Mayo Clinic Staff

Last year in the U.S., organ donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible. Another one million people received cornea and other tissue transplants that helped them recover from trauma, bone damage, spinal injuries, burns, hearing impairment and vision loss.

Even so, the need remains critical. There are currently 110,371 people awaiting an organ transplant in the U.S. Eighteen people will die each day waiting for a donor organ. One organ donor can save up to eight lives.

As of Jan. 31, 1,345 people in Missouri were on the state wait list for an organ donation. The need for kidneys was most prevalent, with 1,009 people on the waiting list, followed by livers (214), hearts (68), lungs (38), and other or multiple organs (16).

In order to address the nation's critical organ donation shortage and improve the organ matching and placement process, the U.S. Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act in 1984. The act established the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to maintain a national registry for organ matching.

The act also called for the network to be operated by a private, nonprofit organization. The United Network for Organ Sharing , based in Richmond, Va., administers the network under contract with the federal government.

The Missouri Organ Donor Trust Fund was established in 1996 to support the organ and tissue donation programs and to maintain a statewide confidential registry of donors. The fund is financed solely from voluntary contributions.

House Bill 151, which I am sponsoring, will add a check-off on Missouri income tax forms for taxpayers due a refund to designate a portion of that refund to Missouri's Organ Donor Trust Fund. The bill also provides a way for those not due a refund to make a contribution directly to the fund. Currently, Missouri law permits you to make a $1 donation to the Trust Fund at the time you apply for a driver license, permit, or non-driver license, or when titling and/or registering a vehicle.

The Missouri Donor Registry provides an easy way for individuals to designate that they wish to donate their organs upon their death to save the lives of others at www.missouriorgandonor.com. Please consider doing so. It's painless.

State Rep. Chris Kelly serves Boone County in the 24th District.


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