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Back To Vidyya HHS Announces Increase In Organ Donations And New Tool To Support And Empower Families Making Donation Decisions

Donors Increased Nearly 4 Percent During The First Half Of 2000

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) announced yesterday that the number of organ donors increased nearly 4 percent during the first half of 2000 compared to the first six months of 1999.  This increase is similar to the positive trend reported for the first five months of the year by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) contractor for the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplants Recipients.

"Our efforts to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation appear to be paying off, but with 71,000 people on the transplant waiting list, we still have a long way to go," said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. "Transplantation is an effective treatment for many people, but each transplant starts with someone's decision to become an organ donor.  I urge everyone to make that decision today, and share it with your family."

After rising 6 percent in 1998 -- the first substantial increase since 1995 -- organ donation remained essentially flat in 1999.  AOPO's organ donor data were generated from the 59 federally designated organ procurement organizations (OPOs) nationwide.  For the first six months of 2000, the number of donors was 2,978, up from 2,875 in 1999 in the same time period.

"My colleagues and I welcome this increase," said AOPO President Susan Gunderson. "And, we pledge to vigorously continue our efforts to broaden public awareness of and support for organ donation."

HHS also released, Roles and Training in the Donation Process:  A Resource Guide, a tool to help the transplant community, hospitals and OPOs implement a 1998 rule issued by HHS' Health Care Financing Administration to promote the best practices in organ donation.  The rule requires hospitals to refer all deaths to OPOs and provide specialized training for hospital staff who talk with grieving families about donation.  Working with donor families, the transplant community, health care professionals, and bereavement and pastoral care specialists, HHS developed this guide to help train hospital staff and others to talk sensitively with families about organ donation. Funded by HRSA and co-sponsored by HCFA, the guide will be distributed to hospitals and OPOs nationwide.

The guide emphasizes the importance of total hospital-based bereavement care for all families facing the loss of a loved one.  It also highlights the pivotal role of hospitals in donation and encourages flexibility in implementation of the HCFA rule, taking into consideration the competencies and training needs of hospital staff.

To further enhance the rule's impact, HRSA and HCFA recently co-sponsored two national technical assistance workshops to highlight effective donation-enhancing strategies developed jointly by OPOs and hospitals.

In December 1997, Vice President Al Gore and HHS Secretary Shalala launched the National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative.  In addition to the HCFA rule and related activities, the initiative has brought together dozens of public and private organizations to encourage donation.  These education efforts emphasize the need to inform family and others of one's decision to be a donor.  In 1999, HRSA awarded grants to 18 projects to test innovative strategies for increasing donation.

A copy of Roles and Training in the Donation Process: A Resource Guide and additional information about the National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative are available in this issue of Vidyya.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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