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March 8, 1999

Cadaveric Organ Donation: Rethinking Donor Motivation

Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(5):438-442. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.5.438

THE GAP between the numbers of patients in need of organs for transplantation and the number of organs available is at a critical level nationally. From 1988 to 1996, the number of patients on waiting lists for a transplant rose from 16,026 to 50,047 (212%). Yet, in the same period, cadaver donors only increased from 4084 to 5416 (33%). Because of the shortage of donors, 1502 patients died awaiting a transplant in 1988; this number increased to 3916 deaths in 1996, an increase of 161%.1 This expanding gap is not due to a shortage of potential donors. By far the most common reason for nondonation is denial of consent by the donor's family; only 4800 (35%) of 13,700 medically suitable donors agreed to donation in 1993.2 Donation of most medically suitable organs would save thousands of lives by reducing or eliminating the gap between supply and need for organs.