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Life in death

U.S. transplant expert makes recommendation


Dr. Margaret O’Shea

While Barbados only allows living donations of kidneys now, a US transplant expert says there could be more to be had if the hospitals and centres could harvest from those clinically dead.

“Despite many, many, many ways to get people to realise that it would be a blessing if every single person that died donated their organs and then we wouldn’t have people waiting for organ donation. Certainly if we had as many deaths as we had people in need of organs, there wouldn’t be that many people waiting,” said Associate Director of the Christiana Care Health System, Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White.

The Bajan Delaware-based surgeon, speaking last night at The Sylma Reeves Memorial Lecture at the University of the West Indies, noted that in the US about 18 to 20 persons died daily waiting for an organ to be donated.

“There is that big discrepancy in that if the demand is high, we don’t have the numbers to match that. So people wait and people die waiting,” she said.

The emphasis in the United States is on living donations, she said and persons waiting were encouraged to exhaust that possibility before they could be put on a list awaiting an organ from someone who died.

“Data has shown that the less time you spend on dialysis, the better off you will do post-transplant. If you avoid dialysis entirely, your survival is so much better because you don’t come to the table with those other illnesses you bring from long-term kidney disease. The minute you develop kidney disease, there are things that kick into play that make you go downhill.”

She said though that there was a need to get people to understand the need to donate and the benefits of donation — the number of people that could be helped.

“It is important to understand, yes, find a donor, understand the concept that we can help others through our donation. For Barbados it is living donation… and it takes a lot of political legislation to get through the red tape of really getting in place deceased donors.

“But with deceased donors many more people can benefit. Also, you have to understand the concept of understanding this is something I want to do. In the United States you sign your drivers licence and tick yes, you agree to organ donation and that is a living document that says I have agreed to organ donation, but I still need to talk to my loved one,” she said.

“The goal is you have to understand it is a gift of life. You can’t take them with us… we will all disintegrate, so what better gift than to let others benefit from our organs when we die because we have the technology to remove them and that persons can take them from one room to another and put them in a container with ice and fly across state lines to save [someone],” she added. (LB)

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