How to save a life. Or a million.

Photo by Clever Cupcakes

Each year, more than 1,000,000 people in the US alone need lifesaving and life-improving tissues.
Last Year, 22,104 organs were transplanted last year, each one saved a life.
This means that ~980,000 people were left waiting, flush with hope that they might get access to that kidney, or liver or heart that would get them back to being happy and healthy members of our society. Not all of them would make it.

The silver lining: The life-saving items they need aren’t expensive. In fact, they are completely free. We can save a million lives for free.

How’s that for a perfect storm of supply/demand and cost/benefit?

There are a variety of solutions out there. One is to change our system in the US to being opt-out rather than opt-in. Assuming only a small number of people actually object to being an organ donor (after all, you can’t take it with you), changing the default would at least capture the organs of all the lazy people. Another would be to force people to make a choice – this way, at least we wouldn’t lose access to all the life-saving potential from people who would donate but simply haven’t yet registered.

As you might guess, I’m not the first person to think about this. This meta-study from the UK looked over a ton of studies in individual countries to draw some interesting conclusions. (Full report available here, fair warning, its 134 pages)

Key conclusions?

  • Presumed consent (the standard name for my change-the-default idea above) can increase donorship rates by 20-30%
  • Austria and Germany create an interesting comparison as they have similar geography and culture. (as noted in this piece from the NY Times) Germany is opt-in, Austria is opt-out. Germany gets 12% of their people as donors, Austria gets 99%.

So why am I writing about this? People who know me might find this unexpected, as I don’t typically rally behind charities. However, the practical benefits of an action so simple leave me feeling compelled. As charities go, It doesn’t have the splash value of controlling malaria by tracking mosquitos by laser, but it does have a real impact.

So what can I do? I’m running the New York City Triathlon with Team Donate Life – raising awareness and money for this really simple fix. Every donor can save 3+ lives. Get into it. No, I’ve never run a Tri before, if that’s not enough reason for you to become an organ donor and kick a few bucks toward a great cause, I don’t know what is.

Plus – its tax deductible. So not only is saving lives via organ donation free, so is donating to the cause. (kind of)

So next time you’re out at a cocktail party, impress people with some of this:

  • A new name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 min. Most of them won’t make it.
  • 18 people die every day waiting for an organ donor
  • 100,000 people in the NY area are waiting for an organ that would save their lives.

It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t cost your family anything. Its not against your religion. So today, do something. Make a difference. Become an organ donor. While you’re at it, put some donation money to a good cause — it will help me represent this great cause as I run the tri, can be written off on your taxes, and will save multiple lives.

Put money here –> I want to donate.

Every cent goes to the NY Organ Donor network. They’re going to use it to get people to become donors, to get people to change the rules, and to save as many lives as humanly possible.