Dispelling the Myths of Organ Donation in the African American Community

Have you ever thought about what you want for yourself after you have passed on?  Many of us are uncomfortable with the topic and tend to push it to the back of our mental closet, promising ourselves we will revisit it later in life.

But what if later comes sooner than planned?  Do your family members know what your wishes are?

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, around 30% of people on the organ recipient waiting list are African American.  Yet many of us are not registered as donors.

Of course, we know that organ donation occurs across ethnicities.  But it is worth considering that donor compatibility is determined by factors such as blood type and other genetic similarities.  Today there is a genuine need for African American donors that just isn’t being met.

So why is this?  One big fear reported in studies is the notion that being a donor makes you less likely to receive the best care in hospitals.  The idea is that your organs are needed, so there might be less of a fight to save your life.

I don’t for one moment wish to minimalize anyone’s fears.  We are all fearful of something, and it is hard to trust in goodness and equality in a world filled with challenge.  But I would like to offer my belief that we can trust in our doctors.

Sadly, a study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association states that 46% of African Americans state a lack of trust in doctors as a factor in not registering as organ donors.  And 66% of African American participants in this study stated that organ donation had not even been discussed amongst their family.

I would like to encourage a more open discussion around this topic.  It doesn’t have to be taboo, and we are each free to choose for ourselves whether or not to donate after our passing.

If you have heard my story before, then you will know that after my son’s sudden passing in 2011, he went on to save the lives of others as an organ donor.  Nothing can bring Trevin back, but I can find some comfort in focusing on the fact that he has gone on to save the lives of others.  And there are plenty of people, just like you and I, in need of this kind of help.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  If you have never registered as an organ donor, is it down to a lack of faith in the medical profession, or another reason entirely?  Please do leave me a comment below.

You can read the whole story about my son’s life, death, and how he went on to save more lives in my book, And The Beat Goes On.

Learn more about organ donation by clicking here.