April means different things to Americans -- the dreaded federal tax return deadline, Easter, spring flowers, Passover, April showers, students' spring break, and so on. April also holds special significance in the US transplant community. As many of you know, April is National Donate Life Month, a month during which those who help save and enhance the lives of others through donation are recognized, appreciated, and applauded.
One of the goals of National Donate Life Month is to raise public awareness of the critical need for organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donation; according to US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, this is a time to "... remind all Americans of their own ability to renew and enhance life through the gift of donation."
Although this hasn't exactly been a banner year for organ donation, I am encouraged during this season of renewal by the hopefulness expressed after previous editorials in correspondence to me by those with the most to gain and the most to lose from our system -- those awaiting organ transplantation. It is a sobering fact, however, that fewer than half of the families approached to donate organs actually say yes. And so, until such time that medical breakthroughs make transplantation and the need for organ donation obsolete, we continue our quest for enough organs.
In an attempt to get to the root of the problem by learning from those most successful, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) will convene the nation's foremost experts on the organ and tissue donation and procurement at Research to Practice: A National Consensus Conference in Orlando, Florida, April 28-30, 2003. Successful approaches to working with families and other potential donors will serve as a springboard for attendees to reach consensus on the best approaches to making the request for donation and widespread implementation. For more details about this important conference and how you can participate, go to www.unos.org or http://www.unos.org/downloadables/consent_conference.pdf.