Public urged to sign up as organ donors

The Latvian Transplantation Center and the Pauls Stradiņš Clinical Hospital jointly launched a public awareness campaign about donating organs for medical patients needing transplants Thursday, urging the public to discuss attitudes about registering for organ donorship under the slogan – “When you need one, you’ll understand.”

As if to emphasize the delicate combination of factors that must come together in order for an organ transplant to be successful in an emergency situation, doctors at the Stradiņš Hospital last night transplanted a heart that had just become available from a deceased donor into a 45-year old male patient who needed a new one to stay alive, a hospital spokeswoman told news wire BNS.

According to Eurobarometer surveys, Latvians are the most shy among Europeans in discussing their attitudes regarding organ donorship with their next of kin. Only 15% of Latvians admitted to having talked the possibility over with their loved ones, compared to an average 40% among other Europeans.

While 75% of Latvians say they are willing to let their organs be used as transplants in the event of their untimely death, only 67% said they had let their family members know that was what they wished.

It is important to let your loved ones know that you are willing to have your organs go to another persons’ use, if possible, says the hospital’s kidney transplant department chief doctor Jānis Bicāns. In Latvia and throughout Europe there is an acute need for essential internal organs for transplantation.

“We’re not afraid to address the next-of-kin directly when a deceased person might be of help to a living patient in line for an organ,” said the surgeon. “Only they must know that the final word rests with the deceased, that they can only pass their word on, not make the decision in their place. We would never touch a body without such express intent made clear,” he said.

At a discussion held as part of the campaign, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs was held up as the responsible agency that in maintaining its registry of residents would be able to include a designation as to whether or not persons will have expressed their intent to become organ donors.

Waiting lists for kidney donations twice exceed the available number of donated organs received. In Latvia there are ten people waiting for state-funded heart transplants (including two children), while liver transplants await an average of 50 persons per year (as it is not covered in state-sponsored insurance programs).

One can receive an organ from either a living donor or a deceased one. Only volunteers who have documented their intent or told their loved ones to permit an organ donation after their death can be used for transplantation purposes.

The first heart transplant in Latvia took place on April 10, 2002 with sixteen further operations succeeding since then.

 

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