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Solid Organ Donation After Death in the United States: Data Driven Messaging to Encourage Potential Donors


January 9, 2020

US deceased donor solid organ transplantation (dd-SOT) depends upon an individual's/family's altruistic willingness to donate organs after death; however, there is a shortage of deceased organ donors in the United States. Informing individuals of their own lifetime risk of needing dd-SOT could reframe the decision-making around organ donation after death. Using United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) data (2007-2016), this cross-sectional study identified (1) deceased organ donors, (2) individuals waitlisted for dd-SOT (liver, kidney, pancreas, heart, lung, intestine), and (3) dd-SOT recipients. Using US population projections, life tables, and mortality estimates, we quantified probabilities (Pr) of (1) becoming deceased organ donors, (2) needing dd-SOT, and (3) receiving dd-SOT. Lifetime Pr (per 100 000 US population) for males and females of becoming deceased organ donors were 212 and 146, respectively, and of needing dd-SOT were 1323 and 803, respectively. Lifetime Pr of receiving dd-SOT was 50% for males, 48% for females. Over a lifetime, males were 6.2 and females 5.5 times more likely to need dd-SOT than to become deceased organ donors. Organ donation is traditionally contextualized in terms of charity toward others. Our analyses yield a new tool, in the form of quantifying an individual's own likelihood of needing dd-SOT, which may assist with reframing motivations toward deceased donor organ donation.

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