What Minorities Need To Know About Organ Donation and Transplantation
In the past my posts have been very general about the need for and benefit of organ donation. Today, though, I want to be more specific and discuss how minorities are affected by organ donation and transplantation.
There is some evidence to indicate a reluctance to donate by minorities is based on what they believe is unequal treatment – minorities giving up organs for rich non-minorities. The facts are clear – more members of the minority population will benefit if there is an increase in minority organ donation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority health http://www.omhrc.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=3123 published the following article on why it is important for Minorities to Donate. “The need for transplants is unusually high among some ethnic minorities. Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver that can lead to organ failure are found more frequently in ethnic minority populations than in the general population. For example, Native Americans are four times more likely than Whites to suffer from diabetes. African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from kidney disease. Many African Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to kidney failure. Some of these diseases are best treated through transplantation; others can only be treated through transplantation.
The rate of organ donation in minority communities does not keep pace with the number needing transplants. Although minorities donate in proportion to their share of the population, their need for transplants is much greater. African Americans, for example, are about 13 percent of the population, about 12 percent of donors, and about 23 percent of the kidney waiting list.
***Editors note, the rate of organ donation in minorities may not keep pace but it doesn’t keep pace with non-minorities either. Kind of an absurd statement.
Successful transplantation is often enhanced by matching of organs between members of the same racial and ethnic group. Generally, people are genetically more similar to people of their own ethnicity or race than to people of other races. Therefore, matches are more likely and more timely when donors and potential recipients are members of the same ethnic background.
Minority patients may have to wait longer for matched kidneys and therefore may be sicker at the time of transplant or die waiting. With more donated organs from minorities, finding a match will be quicker and the waiting time will be reduced.”
MOTTEP (Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program) http://www.nationalmottep.org/statistics.shtml is a treasure trove of information about this subject and they say at least half the people on the national waiting list are minorities. “One disease, diabetes, is particularly notable: Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs within children. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, usually occurring after age 45. Complications include: blindness, kidney disease, amputations, heart attack and stroke.”
Prevalence in African Americans:
· Approximately 2.3 million African Americans have diabetes. 1/3 of them do not know it.
· African Americans are 1.7 times more like to have diabetes, than Non-Latino Whites.
· 25% of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes.
· 1 in 4 African American women over 55 years of age have diabetes.
Prevalence in Native Americans:
· Native Americans have the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
· Type 2 diabetes among Native Americans is 12.2% for those over 19 years of age.
· Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions among Native Americans. Complications from diabetes are major causes of death and health problems in most Native American populations.
· Amputations among Native Americans are 3-4 times higher than the general population.
Prevalence in Hispanics/Latinos:
· Type 2 diabetes is 2 times higher in Latinos than in Non-Latino Whites.
· 1.2 million of all Mexican Americans have diabetes.
· Nearly 16% of Cuban Americans in the U.S. between the ages of 45-74 have diabetes.
· Approximately 24% of Mexican Americans in U.S. and 26% of Puerto Ricans between the ages of 45-75 have diabetes.
Finally, a word about the process of organ allocation — it is fair and non-discriminatory. What is unfair and very discriminatory is the fact that so many people don’t even get listed for an organ transplant because they can’t afford the cost. That is a national disgrace.
Please comment in the space below or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love. You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net. It only takes a few minutes.