For the third straight year, the number of organ donors in the United States has remained level at about 4,500, leaving thousands of people without the heart, liver, kidney, lung or pancreas transplantations they desperately need, reports the Assn. of Organ Procurement Organizations.
In recent years, the decrease in traffic fatalities has reduced the number of possible donors. And an increase in HIV and hepatitis infections in potential donors has also sidetracked numerous transplantations since infected organs cannot be used.
Still, about 15,000 people die each year who could be donors. And the most perplexing issue facing donor agencies is why families of these individuals decline to donate.
"There are so many misconceptions and so much misinformation about organ donation," says Dr. Paul Terasaki, director of the Regional Organ Procurement Agency of Southern California. "It is urgent that the public be educated and these myths and fears be dispelled."