A second life for more people

Photo: Colorful drawing of a heart

The European Organ Donation Day takes place 9 and 10 October in Lisbon. Its motto is "Art and Transplantation"; ©panthermedia.net/ Fujisl

People who talk about their "Second Life" sometimes refer to an online game. Others talk about their "second life" with a donated organ. Transplantation has been the only therapy for them to make them independent again from expensive and chronic care and life supporting machines. Transplantation often has saved their lives, too.

Diseases and unhealthy lifestyle often cause organ failure: chronically elevated blood glucose levels and hypertension damage the kidneys for example. Alcohol, drugs and hepatitis can destroy the liver. And infections are able to damage the heart’s muscles so that the heart is no longer able to pump blood.

Afterwards, when the damage is done, there are a lot of obstacles before a suitable donor organ is available. Partly, it depends on how the organ distribution is organized in a given country. In certain countries, there are naturally more potential recipients than donors. In some countries, the donor needs to personally and explicitly agree to the removal of his organs after his death. In others, he has to explicitly reject it. And in some countries, the relatives have the right to reject it, too.

In the end, not all organs are viable for transplantation. This can be the case when the donor himself was not healthy or too old or when transportation to the recipient takes too long. The new organ also needs to be compatible with the recipient’s body. Otherwise, the immune system would destroy it.

Many organs that are potential life savers thus do not get a recipient and many potential recipients die without a suitable organ. This is why modern medicine not only wants to improve removal and conservation techniques in order to increase the number of viable organs. The production of replacement organs in regenerative medicine is also an ever-growing field of research as well as artificial systems that are meant to replace organs as implants.

At 9 and 10 October, it is European Organ Donation Day. This year, it is celebrated in Lisbon. Read more about current research to help organ recipients here at MEDICA-tradefair.com.