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December 20, 1985

The organ procurement problem: many causes, no easy solutions

JAMA. 1985;254(23):3285-3288. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360230015002

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This year 20,000 people will suffer brain death from trauma. Only 15% of these people will be organ donors. When the rest are buried or cremated, they will take with them approximately 34,000 kidneys, and as many as 17,000 hearts, livers, pancreata, and pairs of lungs. Thus as many as 100,000 transplantable organs will be lost.

"These statistics are only a rough estimate, but they're the best we can do without undertaking a very expensive study," says Jeffrey Prottas, PhD, chair of the organ procurement section of the Task Force on Organ Transplantation. They were derived from a literature survey commissioned by the task force, which was formed under the National Transplantation Act of 1984 to evaluate issues generated by the practice of replacing the organs of one person with those of another. And while these figures may be inexact, the task force thinks they are a reasonable illustration