Utah ranks highest in registered organ donors in the nation.

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By Preston Rigdon

More than 100 million organ, eye and tissue donors are now registered in the U.S. — a record high for the nation.

The total number of registered donors in 2007 was 64 million, showing an increase of 36 million in less than five years.  Therefore, almost 7.5 million Americans are becoming registered donors every year which is roughly 42 percent of the adult population.

Utah has consistently had one of the highest donor registration rates in the nation, with around 78 percent  as registered donors.

A press conference was held on Oct. 14 at the University of Utah Hospital, with recipients and patients discussing how much organ donations mean to themselves and their families. Many people talked about the importance increasing donors and transplant awareness.

Shauntelle Stephenson, from Bountiful, has a 4-year-old daughter, Kaidence, who recently received a life-saving heart transplant when she was an infant.

“You don’t really think about it, until it is happening to you,” Stephenson said. “When your life is falling apart, it is not the most opportune time to have your first lesson on organ donation.”

Stephenson said she understands that some people don’t believe in organ donation for reasons related to religion, quality of life and fear of organ rejection. However, she feels most people who are not donors  have not been properly educated. While Stephenson respects every individual’s choice, she said educating the public about organ donation will help resolve a lot of people’s issues.

“We are so lucky to have this in our country,” Stephenson said. “I know that there are other countries that organ donation is not even an option, or it is an illegal practice.”

The U.S. government has a checks and balance system so organ donations and transplants are efficient and moral. A news release about organ donations said many people do not understand that, in order to donate organs after death, a person needs to die in a hospital or on a ventilator. In Utah, about one in every 80 deaths meets these qualifications.

“It’s hard for families that are living their nightmares to think about organ donations,” Stephenson said “But for the other family, it is an answer to their prayers.”

For the family of a donor, they have the option to choose to remain anonymous or to have their information given to the family.

“Our family chose to have contact with us and it has been such a blessing for both families lives,” Stephenson said.

Jeff Klis, a junior from Sommerset ,Wisc., studying electric engineering, thinks one of the main reasons people are not organ donors is because there are not many opportunities for people to register.

“It is kind of that thing you are at the register and they ask for a donation when you are getting your first driver’s license,” Klis said. “Other than that you don’t really see it around that much.”

Klis said religious beliefs might have hindered decisions in the past, but attitudes toward donations and transplants have changed in the past decade. Because the transplanting of body parts raised some concerns regarding ethical and moral issues, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement.

“Whether an individual chooses to will his own bodily organs or authorizes the transplant of organs from a deceased family member is a decision for the individual or the deceased member’s family,” the news release said. “The decision to receive a donated organ should be made with competent medical counsel and confirmation through prayer.”

“It’s kind of the last selfless act you can do,” Klis said.

Stephenson said because someone was willing to donate, their family is still blessed with their little girl.

“Kaidence is like any other girl,” Stephenson said. “The only thing different is that a heart of an angel is beating in her chest.”

 

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