In 1989, the number of people on the waiting list for an organ was 16,000; this number has skyrocketed to more than 120,000. This increase is due in part to advancements in medical technology – doctors are better equipped now more than ever to detect cancer and other disorders. Other factors, such as increased longevity, higher rates of obesity, and a growing population have all contributed to this jump.

However, growing demand has not been matched by similar increases in supply: the number of organ donors has remained fairly stagnant, increasing only half a percentage point each year. Such societal trends are alarming, and mean longer wait times on organ donation lists.

Wait times depend on a number of factors: weight, height, blood type, medical urgency, and distance to a hospital are all considered.
Average wait times vary, and range from weeks to months to years. These longer wait times mean more people are dying while waiting for organs. On average, 18 people die every day waiting for an organ, and this estimate does not account for those who voluntarily withdraw themselves from waiting lists or those who have been removed because they no longer qualify.

While a recent Gallup poll revealed that 90% of people surveyed are in favor of organ donation, most people are still not registered as donors and even fewer have become living donors. To help keep a lid on wait times, transplant centers have started national campaigns to encourage people to become live donors. Programs like “Share your spare” attempt to persuade people to donate one of their kidneys. In general, living organs are preferable to ones from a cadaver.

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