Organ Donations

April 15, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 15
Can the growing demand for organs be met?
By Barbara Mantel


A surgeon readies a kidney (Getty Images/Christopher Furlong)
A surgeon readies a kidney for transplant in Birmingham, England, in 2006. In the United States, 80 percent of people on organ-transplant waiting lists need a kidney, but the wait time averages between three and five years. Many patients with kidney failure are kept alive on dialysis. (Getty Images/Christopher Furlong)

More than 110,000 Americans are on organ-transplant waiting lists, and demand for kidneys, lungs, hearts and other donated organs far exceeds the supply. Eighty percent of those waiting for organs need kidneys, in part because of rising incidences of obesity, hypertension and diabetes. States have made it easier for people to register as donors, either online or when obtaining or renewing a driver's license. Also, hospitals have been working to increase the number of families that allow a loved one's organs to be donated at death. But some transplant advocates are proposing more controversial measures, such as rewarding donors with financial compensation. Advances in bioengineering may eventually shrink the organ gap, allowing surgeons to transplant organs engineered from a patient's own stem cells. But for complex organs such as lungs and kidneys, that goal is probably decades away.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Organ Transplants
Jun. 24, 2022  Organ Trafficking
Jul. 19, 2011  Organ Trafficking
Apr. 15, 2011  Organ Donations
Feb. 21, 2003  Organ Shortage
Aug. 11, 1995  Organ Transplants
Oct. 05, 1990  Transplants: Why Demand Exceeds Supply
Jul. 08, 1983  Renaissance in Organ Transplants
May 24, 1968  Heart Surgery and Transplants
Medical Research and Advocacy