So far in America, only about 400 people have donated their kidneys anonymously. That’s a little over one donate a kidney person in a million. Why so few? My theory is that there are not ten people in a million who know all the facts that were listed at the start of this article. If they don’t know about the need, and about how to donate, how will they ever do it? It seems that no one wants to tell them (and, sadly, that even includes the glowing reports in local newspapers, which seldom ever even suggests that others could do the same thing).
The general public simply does not know that they can save a life by donating one of their kidneys right now, while they are still alive. They are told that they can save lives by donating blood, and that they can save lives by volunteering to be a bone marrow donor. They are even told that they can save a life by donating a kidney after they die (although it is rare for anyone choosing to do this to actually die in circumstances where their willingness to donate a kidney will be of any use). But the masses have been kept ignorant of the benefits of donating a kidney right now… even though the entire waiting list for kidney transplants could be eliminated if even one person in 3,000 who heard what we have just said would decide to donate.
The rate of transplants from deceased donors (mostly people who have been killed in car accidents) has not increased significantly for many years. The main problem is that organs can only be taken from people who are pronounced brain dead and kept on life support during the time it takes to notify a recipient and get that person to the hospital. The organ is taken from the person on life support about the same time that the plug is pulled on the machine. An added problem is that a kidney taken like this lasts, on average, only about half as long as one taken from a live donor.
So why aren’t people being told that they can donate a kidney while still alive? There seem to be two main reasons, and neither of them is very easy to proclaim without offending people: First, the people in control of such big organisations as the National Kidney Foundation, are generally not willing to donate a kidney themselves, and so they feel that it is not fair to encourage others to do something that they personally would not be willing to do. The second reason is that the people who have donated are heavily pressured not to encourage other people to donate. We are told that we would be showing off or that we would be laying heavy guilt trips onto the rest of society if we were to push for more emphasis on education about live non-directed organ donations.