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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Missouri changes organ donation procedures

New laws say family members may not interfere with a person's wish to donate organs.

Oct. 17, 2008

Jonathan Mallett had been sick for a long time.

His lungs were filling with mucous secretion and he kept getting microbial infections due to cystic fybrosis. The only chance he had at a longer life was to get a double-lung transplant.

"From experiencing the wait for an organ, any number of people waiting is too high," Mallett, a 2008 MU graduate, said. "The only way to fix this problem is to have more eligible people donate or hope science comes up with a way fixing this deficit."

Mallett was one of the lucky ones. He received his double-lung transplant and got the opportunity to have a longer life. However, not as many people are as lucky.

According to a new report released by the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 100,000 people across the country are waiting for an organ transplant.

So far this year, more than 16,000 transplants have been performed and more than 8,000 donations have occurred. Last year, nearly 6,700 people died while awaiting transplants.

The waiting list for organ transplants includes those actively and inactively awaiting donations. Patients can become inactive due to a number of reasons, including health status and insurance arrangements.

University Hospital is the only transplant center in mid-Missouri. It primarily does kidney transplants. About 40 percent of the patients on the waiting list for kidneys in 2007 received transplants. More than 75,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants.

On Aug. 28, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act took effect. The new law changed the procedures concerning how a person can become an organ donor. Prior to this act, Missouri had an "intent registry," meaning though someone could register to be an organ donor, the final decision remained with that person's family.

Following this legislation, Missouri now has a "first-person registry," so any person that has registered to be an organ donor will have their wishes recognized upon his or her death, without any interference from family.

"In the past, if the patient has indicated on their driver's license or signed up on the donor registry, the family still had to have the final say," said Lori Kramer Clark, hospital services coordinator for Midwest Transplant Network. "So when they said no, it was somewhat crushing (to the patients awaiting the transplants). Due to the law change, if Missourians want to move forward with giving the gift of life, we can do that."

The new law changed several other parts of organ donation law as well.

Virginia Beatty, the organ donor program manager for the state-run Organ Tissue and Donation Program, said the expiration, suspension or the loss of a license would not invalidate that persons intention to donate organs.

"(The law) clearly states that the medical team working to save your life is completely separate from the organ/tissue recovery team," she said. "In spring 2009, individuals will be able to obtain a user ID and password to access their personal registry information and list which organs and tissues they wish to donate and specify limitations of the gift."

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