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Statement by Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu Acting Surgeon General Regarding National Donor Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Today marks the 10th annual observance of National Donor Day. This important observance challenges every American to commit to donation including blood, marrow, and organ and tissue.

Despite all of the hard work over the last nine years, the need for donation continues. Today, nearly 94,000 individuals are on the national list, waiting for a solid organ for transplantation, in order to save their lives or to improve the quality of their lives. This list swells by more than 3,500 individuals every month. Every day, 18 - 20 people die waiting for a solid organ transplant.

That is why this observance is so important. It’s a day that we can increase donor awareness around the nation; however, awareness alone is not enough.

Most Americans would consent to donation if they knew that their loved ones had requested it. Ultimately, it is the family’s final decision that matters. That decision can be affected by the events surrounding a loved one’s final moments. Hence, the need to increase organ donor awareness, and to make certain that individuals discuss that decision with their families, to share your life, and to share your decision.

I encourage you to help your family understand and carry out your wishes. Sit down with your loved ones and tell them about your decision to be an organ and tissue donor. They can serve as your advocate and may be asked to give consent for donation or provide information to the transplant team. There are not enough families who have known what their loved ones wanted on their deaths, and hence, these families were unable to carry out the final wishes of their loved ones, to be organ and tissue donors.

I am one of those individuals whose family had to make that decision. My wife, Donna Lee, and my daughter, Vikki Lianne, were multiple organ and tissue donors. I have benefited from that very special feeling that comes from being a part of a donor family. Because our family believed in organ donation, 11 people had a second chance at life. Through Donna Lee, Vikki Lianne, and so many other organ and tissue donors, many others have gained, from a renewed life, and an improved quality of life.

This year I not only encourage you to talk to your families, but to also get involved by visiting one of the many nonprofit health organizations that is sponsoring a blood or marrow drive or attend a donor/tissue signing event. Blood and marrow donation are an important part of Donor Day. Approximately 35,000 children and adults in our country have life-threatening blood diseases that could be treated by a marrow/blood stem cell or cord blood transplant. And every two seconds someone in America needs blood, more than 39,000 units each day.

Remember that donation is not only an important public health issue, but it is also an issue that affects all of us. It is a human issue, with human impact.

National Donor Day was first initiated by the Saturn Cooperation and its United Auto Worker partners. HHS is a founding national partner of Donor Day and continues to support the campaign along with many nonprofit health organizations. HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration oversees federal efforts to improve the procurement, allocation and transplantation of organs and tissues. To learn more about organ donation and what you can do to help, visit www.organdonor.gov.

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: February 15, 2007