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Coming Soon From Your Employer: Organ Donor Cards

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WebMD Health News

April 17, 2001 -- (Washington) --The problem is all too familiar: Too many very sick people are dying while waiting for organ transplantation. Now the Bush administration has launched a campaign to increase organ and tissue donations. The country's major employers -- and small companies as well -- will soon be distributing national organ donor cards to their employees.

At a ceremony held in Washington Tuesday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson unveiled the new organ donor card as part of the national "Workplace Partnership for Life" campaign. Thompson also announced plans to do the following:

  • Commit $3 million to evaluate the effectiveness of the various strategies to increase organ and tissue donations
  • Immediately review the potential for organ and tissue registries, where donors' wishes could be recorded electronically and made available to families and hospitals whenever needed
  • Create a national medal to honor the families of organ donors

"The need for organ donations is increasingly outstripping the supply," says Thompson. "It is so important for us to redouble our efforts in solving this problem. ... This is just the beginning. This initiative sets out to aggressively increase organ donation throughout America."

Employers participating in the program's launch include: General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Daimler Chrysler Corporation, UAW, Verizon, 3M, and the U.S. Postal Service. Other employers and employer groups will be encouraged to develop their own campaigns.

"This includes not only large corporations and unions, but also the local employer and the small staff of employees," Thompson says.

On the new organ donor card, each individual can designate the wish to have all organs and tissue donated, including bone marrow and blood. The card also has lines for two witnesses' signatures.

More important is that families be aware of their loved ones' intentions. "The donor card alone is not enough to guarantee that a donor's wishes will be known and carried out," says Thompson.

Donor registries will help ensure that families and hospitals know an individual's wishes, Thompson also announced today. Donor registries -- similar to those in place in 16 states -- could be established throughout the country. Thompson has asked the HHS's Office of Inspector General to oversee study of existing registries.

Organ donor issues are certainly not new to Thompson. During his tenure as Wisconsin's governor, Thompson fought then-president Clinton's efforts to switch organ distribution from a geographic basis to one based on medical need.

"I didn't like having organs taken from Wisconsin and transported to another state," he tells WebMD. "Now I look at the nation as a whole. ... My conviction is, let's work together. Let's solve the problem. Let's see if we can't get people to reduce that 76,000 [number of people on the waiting list] so everybody has a chance, whether it be tissue, marrow, blood, or an organ. It's not taking from one for another. It's increasing the amount so we can solve the problem."

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