HARRISBURG, Pa. — Four out of five Pennsylvanians who are not registered organ and tissue donors would accept an organ transplant if they were sick or injured and needed one, according to a recent survey.
Donate Life Pennsylvania commissioned the survey in order to shed light on the wide gap between the high number of people who say they support organ and tissue donation and the percentage of people who have actually registered as donors.
“We know from past polls that over 90 percent of Pennsylvanians say they support organ and tissue donation, but the latest numbers show that only 46 percent of Pennsylvanians are registered. Those numbers don’t add up, and we wanted to understand why,” said Susan Stuart, President and CEO of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) in Pittsburgh.
The pollster asked 400 Pennsylvania adults who said they were not registered organ and tissue donors: “If you were sick or injured and needed an organ or tissue transplant, would you accept the donation?”
82 percent of respondents said yes.
Next, they were asked to explain why they were not registered as organ and tissue donors but would accept a donated organ or tissue. They had a wide range of answers.
“The responses show that many people simply hadn’t taken the time to register or hadn’t thought about it. We heard some familiar misconceptions, such as the belief that a person can be too old or ill to be a donor, or the myth that doctors won’t try as hard to save your life if you’re a registered organ donor,” said Howard M. Nathan, president and CEO of Gift of Life (GOL) Donor Program in Philadelphia.
“But we also heard things that surprised us. Some people opened up and said that they’d refrained from registering because thinking about death makes them uncomfortable. One woman told us, ‘The thought of part of me living on after I die unsettles me.’
“I’ve seen donor families find comfort and healing with the realization that their loved one’s donation enabled someone else to live. This survey showed all of us that we need to do a better job sharing these stories and educating people to make the right choice to register as organ and tissue donors.”
A breakdown of responses found:
- 23 percent said they just had not thought about it or taken the time to register. “Next time I get my license renewed, I intend to become an organ donor. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the importance of it and just never did,” said a woman from Schuylkill County.
- Fact: You don’t have to wait until you’re renewing your driver’s license. You can register any time online. It takes just 30 seconds to register as an organ and tissue donor at donatelifepa.org/registration.
- 21 percent said they did not think they were healthy enough to be donors, or were too old. A woman from York County said, “I really should register to be an organ donor. I understand they do not accept organs from individuals that have had high blood pressure, etc.”
- Fact: Anyone can register to be an organ donor, regardless of age or health conditions. The oldest organ donor was 90 years old. Organs and tissues are carefully screened for diseases before transplant. Learn more at donatelifepa.org/myths.
- 15 percent said simply being asked to think about it was enough to convince them to register. “You just made me realize what you said! I will be signing up to be a donor,” said a woman from Erie County.
- Fact: A wealth of information on organ and tissue donation, including information about living donation, is available at donatelifepa.org.
- 10 percent said they believed a common myth. One man from Philadelphia said, “I’m not registered as an organ donor because, if I were in an accident, I wouldn’t want the doctors to not treat me to their fullest abilities.”
- Fact: This enduring myth is false. Doctors work hard to save every person’s life, and the medical team that treats a patient or makes a determination of death is always separate from the physicians involved with an organ transplant. Learn more at donatelifepa.org/myths.
The survey also asked people who are not registered organ and tissue donors whether they thought only registered donors should be eligible to receive organ or tissue transplants. 89 percent said no.
The group was split on the question of whether registered organ and tissue donors should get priority on the organ transplant waiting list. 53 percent said they should not; 47 percent said they should.
The survey was commissioned by Donate Life Pennsylvania and conducted by Directive Analytics. Participants were selected among Pennsylvanians over the age of 18, based on their self-identification as not being registered organ and tissue donors. The survey respondents were selected to provide an accurate representation of the state’s demographics and a geographic balance.
More than 8,000 people in Pennsylvania are currently on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant. Each organ and donor can save up to eight lives, and each tissue donor can improve up to 50 lives. Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor; there is no cost to donors and their families; and all major religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation and consider donation a final act of love and generosity toward others. Registering as an organ and tissue donor only takes 30 seconds and can be done at donatelifepa.org/registration.
About Donate Life PA
Donate Life PA is a collaborative initiative between Gift of Life Donor Program (GOL), the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) — the two organ procurement organizations serving Pennsylvania — and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Transportation. It is funded by state residents through voluntary contributions included with driver’s license renewals, vehicle registrations and state income tax filings. All contributions are used by the Governor Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund to educate residents, build awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation, and increase the number of people who sign up to become donors on their driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card. Visit us at DonateLifePA.org or at Facebook.com/DonateLifePennsylvania.
About the Gift of Life Donor Program (GOL)
Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 42,000 organ transplants and an estimated 600,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11 million people, and in 2015, the organization coordinated over 44 organ donors-per-million-population — ranking it among the highest in the world. For more information about organ and tissue donation, or to register today, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.
About the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE)
The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the United States. CORE works closely with donor families and designated health care professionals to coordinate the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs and the placement of corneas. With headquarters in Pittsburgh, and an office in Charleston, West Virginia, CORE oversees a region that encompasses 155 hospitals and almost six million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York.