Celebrate Donate Life, But We Must Also Do More

Jay Julian (right), vice-chair, Kidneys for Communities’ Living Donor Connections with the recipient of his kidney donation. Julian’s liver and kidney donations were non-directed, and his 2010 kidney donation launched a seven-person paired kidney chain.

Kidneys for Communities’ team is encouraged by Donate Life America’s, founder of National Donate Life Month, commitment to launch a universal living donor registry in 2022.

While the work that Donate Life and others have done to increase deceased donor registration has saved countless lives, something has been missing from the equation. The millions of Americans waiting year after year for a life-saving kidney donation.

The introduction of the universal living donor kidney registry commands our attention to realign and reboot with more than one solution for consideration. We must share the funding and focus efforts on living kidney donations and paired kidney donations, as well as deceased donation.

According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), living kidney transplants in 2021 were merely 5,971. Deceased kidney transplants were at 18,699. Altogether, this is 24,671 kidney transplants in 2021. Do the math. How do these numbers, from OPTN, impact the more than 100,000 people who are in immediate need of a kidney transplant?

We need all hands on deck to fight the kidney shortage, and looking only at deceased kidney donations, while important, is only half of the equation. We know it’s not one person or one organization that will solve the kidney donor shortage, it takes all of us.

Donate Life’s new registry joins the many efforts already in play. Economist Alvin Roth won a Nobel Prize in 2012 for his work in market design and matching theory to improve the odds for finding living kidney donors. His efforts led to the renowned pairing algorithm that matches incompatible direct donors by performing paired exchanges.

Donate Life, Alvin Roth and Kidneys for Communities have all recognized the need to improve the living kidney donor shortage.

If just a small percentage of the eligible American adult population became living organ donors over the next decade, the kidney donor shortage could be eliminated.

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