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By Julie Crawshaw
Colorado is the fourth state to offer online organ donor information to qualified health professionals. According to state health officials, Colorado’s list for people needing an organ transplant is growing twice as fast as the national average. The online registry should give physicians and other health care professionals direct access to donor lists and Colorado driver’s license records to determine if brain-dead patients registered as organ donors. Potential donors can register online, by phone or by fax.
Federal law gives each person the right to donate his or her organs and tissues after death. Until recently, a driver’s license provided the only means of determining whether an accident victim was also an organ donor. However, critically injured or ill patients frequently don’t have their licenses with them and family members often don’t know if their dying relative wanted to be an organ donor.
The Colorado Organ & Tissue Donor Registry ensures that donors’ wishes will be known. Personal information in the registry is accessible only to a few medical professionals and by law cannot be shared with or sold to companies and government agencies. The nonprofit Donor Alliance, which facilitates organ and tissue donation in Colorado, maintains the computer system that houses the donor information. Only a few members of the Donor Alliance staff have access to the registry, and they have access only to information that confirms the identity and wishes of the donors. Colorado law prohibits the information from being sold for marketing purposes.
The Donor Alliance says that more than 71,000 Americans are now waiting for organ transplants and that a single organ and tissue donor can help as many as 50 people in need. In 1999, more than 6000 Americans died waiting for organs—an average of 16 per day. Colorado’s registry is located at www.coloradodonorregistry.org.