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Organ Donation, a Testimony of Love

“Organ donation is a testimony of love for our neighbor.” ~Pope Francis

This year a team at Johns Hopkins performed the first organ transplants between HIV-positive patients in the United States. The liver and kidney came from the same HIV-positive donor. The kidney went to a patient who has been HIV-positive for 30 years. The liver went to a person with hepatitis C and has been HIV-positive for more than 25 years. Two peoples’ lives were changed substantially by this ultimate gift from a deceased donor.

organDonor2016People with hepatitis C have been eligible to donate organs for many years. Research shows that for a hepatitis C-positive recipient, the outcomes are the same whether you have a hepatitis C-negative or –positive organ. Now that we can cure hepatitis C, the advantages of using hepatitis C-positive organs are quite remarkable.  For instance, hep C-positive kidneys are offered only to hep C-positive patients.  Nationally, the average wait times for a deceased donor kidney is 3 to 5 years, which means years of dialysis. Acceptance of a hep C-positive kidney reduces wait times from years to weeks. The reduced wait times are so much better, it has raised a controversial question. People without hepatitis C would very much like to be offered a hep C-positive kidney, and then get treated for HCV. (I know, this goes against my grain, but long-term dialysis is s huge burden.) Sadly, the risk of acquiring hepatitis C from dialysis may make that happen. Between 2014 and 2015, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has been contacted about 36 cases of acute hepatitis C infection in 19 different hemodialysis clinics in eight states.

In honor of National Donate Life Month, President Obama issued a Proclamation illustrating his Administration’s commitment to shortening the organ waiting list.“Across government, industry, academia, private organizations, and the medical and philanthropic communities, we must all do our part to lift up donors, donor families, and patients by supporting efforts to shorten the organ waiting list.”

Are you doing your part? Have you taken measures to donate your organs upon death? For more information about being an organ donor, click here.

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