When it comes to organ donation, in some ways, society is a victim of its own success. The development of good immunosuppressant drugs has made organs less likely to be rejected, and “people who wouldn’t have been successes previously,” now are, said Amy Friedman, a transplant surgeon and chief medical officer of New York’s organ donor network, LiveOnNY, at Spotlight Health, a conference co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Very sick patients who might not have been put on the waiting list in the past, are now eligible for a transplant.
All this would be amazing—if there were enough organs to give these people. There aren’t. There are more than 120,000 people currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and from January to May of this year, only 6,357 donors, who added up to 13,550 transplants.
Deceased organ donors are not enough to close this gap—less than one percent of the deceased are medically eligible to be donors, and while 95 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, only 50 percent are registered to be donors. Increasing that second statistic is important, but “Unless we turn to living donation and figure this out, it’s not enough,” said Sander Florman, a transplant surgeon at the Mount Sinai Hospital.