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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release December 15, 1997
                     VICE PRESIDENT GORE LAUNCHES 

December 15, 1997

Today, the Vice President is announcing a series of new Administration initiatives to increase organ donation. These initiatives, which build on the Administration's longstanding efforts to improve awareness about organ donation and are led by the Department of Health and Human Services, include: (1) new unprecedented private/public partnerships with businesses, consumers, physicals, health care organizations and others to increase awareness about organ donation across the country; (2) a commitment from the Federal government to do its share, by sending out six messages per year to its employees about organ donation; (3) a proposed regulation to ensure health care providers commit to a patient/family-sensitive process to encourage, where appropriate, organ donation; and (4) an ongoing commitment from the Administration to improve donation, including a conference at the Department of Health and Human Services this spring to examine the best ways to encourage donation.


More than 20,000 Americans each year receive organ transplants that save or enhance their lives. However, 4,000 people die each year, approximately 10 per day waiting for an organ transplant. Today, more than 55,000 people are on the national organ transplant waiting list.

Only about half of Americans who want to become an organ donor have told their families of their wishes. The latest national Gallup study indicates that nearly all Americans would consent to donation if they know their loved one had requested it. Currently, when families are asked if their loved one wants to be an organ donor, only about half give consent, and often, its because the family does not know their loved ones' wishes. Another study found that 27 percent of families of potential donors were never approached about donation. Today the Vice President is announcing a series of new initiatives to help ensure that families have discussed the issue of becoming an organ donor and to ensure that family members of potential organ donors are asked to consider donation. These initiatives include:

An Unprecedented Commitment for New Private/Public Partnerships to Increase Awareness. The Vice President and Secretary Shalala are announcing a series of partnerships the federal government has made with organizations to promote organ donation.

The American Medical Association and The American Academy of Family Physicians have made a new commitment to encourage physicians to make organ donation materials available their offices and to discuss donation with their patients.

The American Red Cross will use its extensive community outreach network to expand upon its current public awareness campaign to promote organ and tissue donation.

The American Bar Association will make a new commitment to encourage attorneys to discuss organ donation with their clients during estate planning through the distribution of materials, by providing continuing legal education programs, and through the encouragement of state and local bar associations to adopt resolutions resolution that urge attorneys to get involved in donor education efforts.

These new partners join others who have already made impressive commitments to improve awareness about organ donation including: the Congress of National Black Churches, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, The U.S. Chamber of Congress, the Washington Business Group on Health, the Home Depot, the American Association of Health Plans, the American Nurses Association, and the American College Health Association.

A New Commitment From the Federal Government To Do Its Share to Increase Awareness About Organ Donation.

All fourteen major Cabinet Agencies and the Executive Office of the President have agreed to provide their employees with information about organ donation six times per year, including information about donation on employee pay stubs. This effort will reach 1.5 million of federal employees as well as their families. The Administration also challenges all private entities to spread awareness about organ donation to their employees.

A New Proposed Regulation to Ensure Families Discuss Organ Donation.

The Vice President is also announcing a proposed regulation by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to revise its conditions of participation for Medicare hospitals to ensure that the families of potential donors are asked to consider donation. HHS will work closely with hospitals, organ procurement organizations, tissue banks and others in the transplant community to produce final rules that will ensure that opportunities for donation are not lost due to failure to identify potential donors. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which provides accreditation for most of the nation's hospitals, has also agreed to incorporate this approach.

Ongoing Efforts to Find New Ways to
Increase Organ Donation.

The Administration will continue to work to identify the best approaches to increasing donation and priorities for future research. In this regard, the Department of Health and Human Services will hold a National Research Conference on organ and tissue donation in the spring of 1998 to discuss the best practices for increasing organ donation.