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Advocating For Live Organ Donation

By Charlie Deitz


Pittsfield, MA – April has been declared National Organ Donation Month, and with over 100 thousand Americans waiting for transplants, organ banks through out the United States are trying to raise awareness about the possibility of live organ donation. WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports on efforts taking place in New England

Jeff Doscher is the executive Director of the Berkshire Community College Foundation, basically the guy that oversees scholarship money and fundraising at the growing college. But on this day we're talking about another major part of his life, dealing with polycystic kidney disease.

"My situation is that I've been relatively healthy besides this,lately I've gotten more tired more easily."

Doscher has been on dialysis now for about 2 and a half years, 3 times a week, 4 hours at a shot.

"So it adds 14 or more hours a week to my schedule."

He says if he ever wants to travel out of town he has to arrange with a nearby dialysis center to do his treatment there. He takes the inconvenience in stride, but holds out hope that he'll soon get a transplant.

" It's helped me accept it, within 5 years I'll get a transplant. Those transplanted organs are good for 8-10 years, maybe I'll feel a little more energy."

So it's no surprise that Doscher was right there when BCC hosted a forum all about organ donation last month. Over 100 teachers and students attended the event sponsored by the New England Organ Bank , here BCC Alum James Lambert talks about his experience being a liver receipient.

"The sicker you are the higher you move up."

The NEOB reports about 3500 New Englanders are waiting for tissue or organ transplants, and while the order is based on how sick the recipients are, NEOB Public Affairs director Sean Fitzpatrick relates there are ways to move your loved ones up.

"My wife may not be able to donate to me, she donates to someone else, I move up."

The whole process, according to Fitzpatrick speaking after the forum, gets easier when people opt to donate organs before they pass away. However, with a growing need for good organs, a dark side emerges, the illegal organ trade, or what's been called the red market. Even the longest running daytime soap, NBC's Days of Our Lives brought it in as a recurring thread.

Although it's been hyped up for drama, Wired Magazine's contributing editor Scott Carney has been reporting on the international organ trade for years, exposing Chinese prisons for holding death row inmates for on demand organ extractions, or in India where people in the slums sell organs for quick cash, all illegal. Carney wasn't able to interview on the topic because he'll be releasing a book on the issue later this spring. Fitzpatrick says that while it isn't prevalent in the US, there might be a temptation for people to go abroad for their organs.

"And it not being known where that transplant is from what's the duty of the US health care system."

All this, Fitzpatrick says, is good reason for people to think about their own tissue or organs for live donation, adding that the ones who have donated, only wish they could do even more.

"The most interesting thing about donation is although you see the tragedy it's offset by families who want to give and give."