Organ donation finding place online in Texas, other states


by By DAN X. McGRAW / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 11:45 AM

Organ donation has moved into cyberspace.

Nefeterius McPherson, 33, of Dallas may one day need a transplant because of a liver condition.

The number of registered organ donors continues to grow across the country since several states - including Texas - have turned to the Internet to sign people up.

Health officials and patients say the online registries make it easy for people to donate organs, tissues, or eyes upon their death and take the guesswork away from relatives who are often left to make such decisions after a family member has died.

"We do everything online now," said Nefeterius McPherson, 33, a Dallas resident who has a liver condition that may one day require a transplant. "We shop online. We pay bills online. Why not register as an organ donor online? It seems silly not to."

More than 161,000 Texans were registered as organ donors on July 1. That figure includes nearly 100,000 who have joined the Glenda Dawson Donate Life registry since it went online nearly a year ago, state figures show.

Nationally, the number of registrants recorded by Donate Life America has grown from 63 million to 72 million since 2006, said spokeswoman Aisha Huertas.

Texas organizers hope to reach the 1 million donor mark within a few years, while national officials are looking to sign up 100 million people.

The Web is at the core of their strategy.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia now have online registries, and several other states are looking to go online, officials said.

"Everything is online now," Ms. Huertas said. "So they went this direction because of the popularity of the Web. It speeds up the process. It is easy for people to sign up, and we hope it will increase the number of donors."

Donors can specify the body parts they want to donate and make changes online. They can also remove their names from the list online.

For Stu Berwick, a 49-year-old Dallas resident, the online registries also allow people to learn more about organ donation.

Mr. Berwick spent five years on the waiting list for heart and lung transplants. He now manages his pulmonary hypertension with medication, but he knows he could be back on those lists if his condition deteriorates.

"It is the easiest and cleanest way to do it," he said. "It gives everyone a definitive answer. It is clear what you want."