April is National Donate Life Month; physicians encouraged to talk to patients about the importance of organ donation

April 14, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Patient Care Patient Education 

In honor of Donate Life Month, the California Medical Association (CMA) and the CMA Foundation are encouraging physicians to talk to their patients about the importance of organ and tissue donation, particularly in underserved ethnic communities.

There are almost 124,000 men, women, and children who are currently waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. Each day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants. However, an average of 22 people die each day waiting for life-saving transplants due to the shortage of donated organs.

According to Donate Life America, More than half of the national transplant waiting list is made up of minority populations. That’s because some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver that are best treated through transplantation are found more frequently in these communities. For example, African Americans and other minorities are three times more likely to suffer from end-stage renal disease than Caucasians. Although it is possible for a candidate to match a donor from another racial or ethnic group, transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. Thus, it is extremely important that the donor population more adequately reflects the ethnic diversity of the organ transplant waiting list. 

In California alone, 22,000 patients are currently waiting for a second chance at life. While the number of candidates continues to exceed the number of donors, there are many things that physicians and community members can do to change these statistics.

What you can do:

  • Visit the Donate Life California website, www.donatelifecalifornia.org and sign up to become a donor yourself. If you are registered via the Department of Motor Vehicles, you can also access/update your registry data.

  • Educate patients about the benefits of becoming a donor. Talk to them about the lifesaving importance of organ and tissue donation and encourage them to register to become an organ donor at www.donatelifecalifornia.org.

Donate Life California is the state authorized nonprofit organization responsible for managing California's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. The registry is a confidential database of donation wishes to be carried out at the time of death.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation in California, please refer to CMA On-Call document #3401, "Organ and Tissue Donation." This document, as well as the rest of CMA's online health law library, is available free to members in CMA's online resource library. Nonmembers can purchase documents for $2 per page. 


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