Every year, millions of Americans develop end-stage organ failure. Without a timely transplant, those with heart, liver, or lung failure usually do not survive, and those with kidney failure are condemned to a life of dialysis.

Seeing the demand

What causes organ failure? For a teenage girl with cystic fibrosis, the cause is genetic. For an older man with renal insufficiency, diabetes and hypertension are likely to blame. Regardless of the cause, these patients are unified by the urgent need for a transplant. For a lucky few, organ transplantation will offer a new lease on life.

We continue to face a staggering organ shortage. The number of organs suitable for transplantation from deceased donors has plateaued, and the number of living donors is declining.

"...nearly half of all transplanted organs will fail within ten years, typically due to rejection or complications from immunosuppression."

Meanwhile, over 120,000 people on the national waiting list need a lifesaving organ. On top of that number, millions of other patients who could benefit from transplantation will never be listed, because their physicians know they would never rise high enough on the list to have a chance of receiving a transplant.

Doing our part

As a society, we need to accomplish two goals to make the ”miracle of transplantation” available to everyone in need.

First, we need to ensure that donating an organ financially disadvantages no one. A donated organ has enormous value not only to the recipient, whose life is saved, but also to society, which often regains a healthy, productive individual post-transplant. We need to recognize the value of this gift to encourage and properly support living organ donors.

Second, we need to support research in the field of transplantation. Transplantation research is horribly underfunded. Compared to efforts to combat other serious medical conditions, transplantation research has almost no public support.

Extending a life

Yet the need is great: nearly half of all transplanted organs will fail within ten years, typically due to rejection or complications from immunosuppression. Many children who receive lung transplants may not live long enough to attend their senior proms.

We must take steps to ensure that transplanted organs function for the recipient’s natural lifetime. We must also develop new techniques to repair and preserve donated organs to maximize the number of organs ultimately suitable for transplantation.

Transplantation is indeed a miracle. We need to work together to make transplantation a miracle that is long-lived and available to everyone in need.