About one-third of Americans are registered to be organ donors after death, federal health agencies say -- but there's always a shortage of available organs. Those willing donors can't be tapped until they die. Further, when one dies, tissue samples may not match suffering victims awaiting rescue. So there's an urgent need for more conscientious folks to join the potential donor rolls.
The Department of Health and Human Services says more than 100,000 sick Americans are on waiting lists, each desperately hoping that an organ will become available for them.
"Each day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants," HHS says. "However, an average of 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs. ... The number of candidates waiting continues to dwarf the number of donor organs available."
Every donor can save up to eight lives as various organs are dispersed to failing patients. Again, HHS says:
"Last year alone, organ donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible. Another 1 million people received cornea and other tissue transplants that helped them recover from trauma, bone damage, spinal injuries, burns, hearing impairment and vision loss. Unfortunately, thousands die every year waiting for a donor organ that never comes."
We hope more compassionate people will register. But if they don't, here's a wise plan: Pass opt-out laws.
Around 90 percent of Americans say they support organ donation -- but most never get around to volunteering. Currently, most states have opt-in laws requiring each would-be donor to sign up. However, opt-out laws make everyone a potential organ source, except a few who specifically ask to be exempted.
Here's a European comparison: Germany had an opt-in system, and only 12 percent of Germans registered. But Austria has opt-out -- and the exemption rate is so tiny that 99.98 percent of Austrians are potential donors. Examples like this caused 24 European nations to adopt opt-out plans.America should follow Europe's pattern, which would triple the number of available donors. West Virginia legislators should consider an opt-out plan for the Mountain State. Saving lives of tragic victims is a noble pro-life goal.