Clinton administration launches organ initiative

A new initiative focused on increasing the number of donated organs was launched late in 1997 by the Clinton administration in conjunction with the Washington, DC-based Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative is an effort to encourage more families to have dialogues to understand their loved one’s wishes and help save lives, says Vice President Al Gore, who announced the program. Although 20,000 Americans undergo organ transplant surgery each year, the demand for donated kidneys, hearts, lungs, livers, and other organs exceeds supply. About 40,000 patients died in 1996 while waiting for a transplant, according to data from HHS.

A three-pronged approach

The Clinton administration’s program is a three-pronged approach focused on closing the donation gap. Elements include:

• creating partnerships among public, private, and volunteer agencies to encourage more Americans to donate their organs after death;

• building networks among hospitals, organ procurement organizations, physicians, and patients to ensure that donation and procurement opportunities don’t slip by;

• promoting research into better ways to encourage donations.

To help accomplish the goals, HHS plans to track national donation and procurement statistics to discover the most effective ways of increasing the number of available organs. Tighter surveillance by the HHS could raise overall organ availability by 20%, says Donna Shalala, secretary of the HHS. The National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative also includes a site on the World Wide Web. Access the Web site at: