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Needed: Organ Donors

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So how can the gap between the number of organs available and the number of people needing organs reduced?

Siminoff and colleagues found that the ideas and preconceived notions people have about organ donation play a significant role in their final decision. Another factor was the comfort level of the healthcare provider: "Families who met with healthcare providers who rated themselves as generally more comfortable about donation were more likely to donate."

They also found that families who are prepared to expect a request are more likely to donate than those who are surprised by the request.

How the request is framed is also important: "Our results suggest that asking apologetically or mentioning that one is legally required to ask is likely to result in a refusal," they write.

Norman Levinsky, MD, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, has written about the ethical issues of organ donation. He confirms that the better-informed families are, and the more tactfully the request is made, the better the chances are that a family will agree to donate.

And in describing the donation process, family members of a potential donor need to understand that surgeons who remove organs for donation are "respectful of the brain-dead person as would be the case if we were doing the surgery as therapy for that person," Levinsky tells WebMD.

The way the request is stated, the actual process of requesting, when it's done, the skill of the requestor, and how the donation might help recipients, for example, by helping two people get off kidney dialysis -- Levinsky considers those the key components of a successful organ donation request.

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