Every 14 minutes, another name is added to the National Organ Transplant waiting list. In an effort to meet this demand, TransWeb, a University organization aiming to register more people for organ donation, has launched a new web site aimed at students called “Give Life: The Transplant Journey.”
TransWeb.org is targeting students because “this is the time when teenagers and young people are making moral decisions about their lives and values,” said University Health Services spokeswoman Kara Gavin.
“The Transplant Journey” aims to educate uninformed students, Gavin said. Many students, like SNRE freshman Molly Walsh, are not clear on the process by which organs are donated.
“If my mom was dying and she needed a kidney or something, I”d do it, but not in any other case,” said Walsh, who has an organ donor sticker on the back of her driver”s license.
In actuality, those who fill out the organ donor stickers are agreeing to donate their organs upon death.
Other students do not understand that filling out the sticker does not mean a doctor is less likely to save them in the case of a serious accident, Gavin said.
TransWeb wants to make the decision of organ donation easier for students through the website and to make it easier to tell family and loved ones of their decisions, Gavin said.
The website stresses the fact that telling the family is a crucial step to making sure the donation wishes are carried out.
“Organ donation has to be something someone decides themselves,” she said. “The family can”t decide for them when a person is near death, so they need to know ahead of time what the person wanted.”
The site debuts at a time when organ donation has recently been brought to national attention.
“We will move in the first 100 days to launch a national campaign to raise awareness of organ donation in this country,” said newly appointed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in a speech to federal health employees on Friday.
“There is a waiting list of at least 70,000 individuals in America that need an organ. And what we need to do, instead of taking from one to another, is do grow the number of donors,” he said.
The website aims to do that by boldly flashing the words “What if you die? Is that the end?” across the screen, accompanied by the sounds of children”s laughter. It proceeds to take the viewer through the organ donation process accompanied by pictures, sounds, and videos. Site administrators plan to add video interviews of patients who have received transplants as well.
Some people are hesitant to donate organs because of the myth that many religious groups are opposed to it.
“Most religious organizations encourage organ donation,” Gavin said.
The website serves as a medical study as well as a public site. Those who visit it can fill out a survey about how much they know about organ donation.
The results of the survey are tabulated and studied by University Hospitals as an indicator of how educated the public is about organ donation and how effective the sites are.
“The Transplant Journey” was made in cooperation with Gift of Life, the transplant society of Michigan.
In Michigan, organ donors can register by signing a statement on the back of their driver”s license or by carrying an organ donor card. Those who wish to donate can be register in the state”s Organ and Tissue Donor Registry.