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TV Program on Organ Donation Prompts Rare Response

Nearly four million people have registered for organ donation in the country. On average, 700 organ donations (9 per each million) are made annually according to official statistics
Only one in every 100,000 brain-dead patients is a donor.Only one in every 100,000 brain-dead patients is a donor.

The recent broadcast of an episode on promotion of organ donation and its importance on a popular primetime TV reality show, created a wave of  response with volunteers signing up for organ donation, breaking all previous records.

In the 48 hours after the episode was broadcast on family TV show “Khandevaneh,” nearly 68,000 people visited the portal of the Iranian Society for Organ Donation (www.ehda.center) and registered for organ donation.

The non-profit organization’s public relations office said the number of applicants on the website increased by almost 80% after last Tuesday’s episode.

One promising way to decrease the gap between the need for organ donation and supply is to encourage voluntary organ donations.

Although the rate of consent to organ donation in Iran has increased from 50% to 70% over the past couple of years, the number of donors’ remains low compared with the number of people on the waiting list to receive a vital organ. Traffic accidents cause 5,000 to 8,000 brain deaths annually and in at least 50% of these cases several organs can be harvested.

In the last calendar year that ended last March, 800 cases of organ donations were registered.

The TV episode hosted Dr. Katayoun Najafizadeh, CEO of the Iranian Society for Organ Donation and head of the Health Ministry’s Organ Donation and Procurement Center, who spoke on the process of organ donation and its impact on human life.

“Organ donation is a humane act and by its consent every family has the ability to save 1-8 people on the deathbed,” she said.

“Each donor can also help 1-50 disabled people,” who might be suffering from visual or hearing impairment among other conditions.

She asked people to visit the website and register “for this simple act of humanity.”

During the show’s air time alone, at 10-11 pm, over 5,000 individuals were simultaneously trying to access the website. The number of people visiting and registering at the online portal varied between 500 and 1,000 on a daily basis before the show.

  Role of Media, Public Figures

A major obstacle often cited for the low consent rates for organ donation is the lack of information or knowledge individuals possess about the issue. Three-fourths of the people may know very little about donation, or are oblivious to this life-giving option.

“One person dies every 2-3 hours due to delays in receiving an organ,” said Najafizadeh. Annually, around 3,200 brain dead people are able to donate organs, while only the families of 800 patients give consent.

In a survey in 2009 by the Organ Donation and Procurement Center, 47% of those polled said they would consent to organ donation by their family members, and 87% said they would give their consent if they are aware that family members had voluntarily registered for organ donation.

Nearly four million people have so far registered for organ donation in the country. On average, 700 organ donations (9 per each million) are made annually according to official statistics.

Only one in every 100,000 brain-dead patients is a donor. A two-fold increase in the number of brain dead donors can decrease the demand for live kidney donations to zero, she added. “About 30 million people must register as donors in a population of 80 million to ensure maximum chances of finding matches in a timely manner.”

A common method to spread awareness is mass communication. Creating greater awareness through campaigns or public messages on such issues enhances volunteerism and the number of people who would want to help their fellow human beings.

The last time when a high number of applicants for organ donations were registered in Iran was in 2013 when renowned TV and cinema actress Asal Badiei was declared brain-dead on March 31, reportedly due to “medical drug overdose,” and died the next day from cardiac and respiratory problems.

Two days after her death, it was announced that her organs would be donated with her family’s full consent. Her kidney, liver, heart and lungs were donated, giving seven people new lives, making her the first Iranian film actress to do so.

In the wake of the humanitarian gesture, 15,000 people registered for organ donation, a record at the time.

Iran ranks third worldwide in organ donation and is the only country in the world that has addressed the shortage of transplant organs through a legal payment system for organ donation since 1988. It is also the only country where organ trade is legal.

Khandevaneh (a mix of the words laughter and watermelon in Persian) started broadcasting in June 2014, and has always tried to promote positive social behavior and raise awareness on issues by inviting experts and celebrities to talk on important themes.

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