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New York Has a Smart New Program to Rush Surgical Teams to Collect Organ Donations

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December 4, 2010

New York has embarked on an attempt to save lives by innovatingly increasing the number of organs harvested for transplantation in the city.

Frustrated that almost 500 people die here every year while hoping for transplants, the Police and Fire departments, Bellevue Hospital and the New York Organ Donor Network will seek out organs as soon as deaths are reported – wherever they are reported.

Traditionally, doctors have harvested organs only from people who have registered to be donors and have died while hospitalized. Now, a team in a special ambulance will try to collect kidneys from registered donors who die of cardiac arrest anywhere but in the hospital.

The team will monitor 911 calls in Manhattan between 4 p.m. and midnight for cardiac arrest reports. If responding medics pronounce the victim dead after life-saving efforts fail, the team will check whether he or she is a registered organ donor between the ages of 18 and 60.

If so, they will inquire as to whether family members wish to honor the person’s wish to be a donor. If the answer is yes, the body will be raced to Bellevue so the kidneys can be preserved.

This must be done with great sensitivity and without interfering in any way with efforts to save cardiac victims. To eliminate such a possibility, emergency medical personnel will not know that the organ team is interested in a case until after a death. This standard must be strictly observed.

More than 6,500 people in the U.S. die every year awaiting a transplant. In the city, 2,455 passed away under those circumstances between 2005 and 2009.

Anything that can be done to reduce that number must be done. More than 600,000 city residents are registered as organ donors. In any given year, only a fraction die and only a smaller fraction prove eligible for donation, based on the cause of death and other medical factors.

Finding even one more would be a boon. If, heaven forbid, there is a death in the family and the organ preservation team should come knocking, please say yes. And give the gift of life.

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