Blood and organ donations are in constant demand. Blood donations are essential for surgeries, cancer treatments, and transfusions. Organ donations can be life-saving as people on an organ waiting list typically have end-stage organ disease that significantly impacts their quality of life. However, both are hard to get because many people do not like needles, and many organ donations require preauthorized consent from someone who had to lose their life to donate.
As expected, there currently needs to be more blood and organ donors. Only about 2% of people in the United States donate blood resulting in around 13.6 million units of whole blood collected annually. Nearly 5,000 units of platelets and 6,500 units of plasma are needed daily in the United States. Red blood cell use is only good before 42 days, and platelets within five days. A constant supply is necessary to meet the demand. Blood varieties add an extra layer of difficulty. Maintaining diversity in the blood supply is essential to ensure every person receives the needed matching blood type, including rare types.
Donating blood requires the desire and ability to give, but organ donation is trickier. Every day there are around 107,000 people on the national organ waiting list; out of those 107,000, 17 people die daily waiting for a transplant. To make matters worse, transplant patients are increasing.
Even though the blood and organ donor shortage affects everybody, Black people feel the need the most. The sickle-cell disease primarily affects Black people, and many of those affected by the disease rely on frequent blood transfusions to manage its harmful impacts. Sickle cell affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S., most of whom are Black.
As with any blood work, people who need transfusions must have a compatible blood type with the donor. More Black people need to donate because one in three Black blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease. Therefore, the more Black people donate blood; the easier it will be for other Black people who need blood to access it without the stress of finding someone compatible.
Many Black people are hesitant about donating despite a glaring need. In 2016, Black people made up 30% of the organ donation waiting list and 33% of the kidney list, even though Black people only make up 13% of the U.S. population. These hesitancies to become a donor often result from a feeling that their organs may be unusable due to specific, prevalent ailments in the Black community and a general distrust of doctors, especially with their lives potentially being on the line.
Even though specific ailments may be present, a lot of the time, the organs are still acceptable for transplant. Education about organ donation would be beneficial to anyone who is considering becoming a donor. Other uncertainties have legitimate standing when looking at the history of Black people and healthcare. However, for those who feel uncomfortable becoming a donor at the end of their life, there is an option to be a living donor, which allows the donor to live a healthy life. Living donors can donate organs such as kidneys, segments of the liver, portions of the pancreas, and parts of the intestine. If a person chooses to be an organ donor, their donation can save up to eight lives.