HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson kept a promise he made on taking office with the launch last week of a five-part campaign to increase organ donations.
The campaign will bring the effort to recruit organ donors into the American workplace, and it could lead to the creation of a national organ donor registry.
Demand for organs for transplant is acute, more than triple the supply: Some 76,000 Americans are awaiting organ transplants, but only 22,827 transplant surgeries were performed in 2000. Government statistics also released last week recorded a 16.5% jump in organ donations from living people between 1999 and 2000, but the number of organs from cadavers, which provide the bulk of the supply, rose only 2.7% during that period.
More than 5,500 Americans died awaiting transplants last year. "That's not right in this great country of ours; we are a compassionate people," said Thompson, who was flanked by leaders from corporate America as he kicked off the campaign on his 75th day in office.
In his opening speech as HHS secretary, Thompson vowed to begin a donation campaign within 100 days. The campaign's launch coincides with the National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week April 15 to April 22.
It also will include efforts to increase blood and bone-marrow donations.
A cornerstone of the campaign will be an effort called "Workplace Partnership for Life," aimed at creating what Thompson described as "a nationwide network of organ donation-friendly worksites."
Meanwhile, HHS will review organ and tissue registries in 16 states while it considers the possibility of a national registry.
Other key aspects of the campaign are updating donation cards to contain two witness signatures, creating a medal to recognize families for consenting to donations, a model curriculum for high school driver's education classes that would include education on organ donation and $3 million in new grants for innovative approaches for increasing donation.