During 2003, there were 25,462 organ transplants in the United States. Since 1988, the number of organ transplants has increased each year. The gender distribution among organ donors was fairly even in 2003 (6,644 females and 6,634 males donated organs.) In 2003, women were more likely than men to donate organs while alive (58.4 percent of living donors were women).Waiting lists for organs continue to increase because the need for donated organs greatly outweighs the availability. As of February 11, 2005, there were 87,178 people certified for a transplant and waiting for organs. Females made up 37.9 percent of those receiving transplants in 2003 and 42.2 percent of those on the waiting list. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among women waiting for an organ. Among women on the waiting list, 28.5 percent were Blacks and 15.3 percent were Hispanics. The kidney was the organ in highest demand, with a total of 60,859 individuals awaiting a kidney, 42 percent of whom were female.

Although there has been an increase in organ donations each year since 1988, obtaining consent for organ donation has been challenging. Consent primarily must be obtained from the donor family or a legal surrogate. Some of the reasons consent rates vary include religious perceptions, poor communication between grieving families and health care providers, perceived inequities in the allocation system, and lack of knowledge of the wishes of the deceased. Race and ethnicity also appear to be a strong predictor of willingness to consent to donation.1

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients are administered by HRSA’s Healthcare Systems Bureau (HSB). Other programs administered by HSB include the National Marrow Donor Program, the National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, and the Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act Program.

Graph: Distribution of Females on Organ Waiting List by Race/Ethnicity[d]

Graph: Female Transplant Recipients and Females on Transplant Waiting Lists by Organ[d]

1 2003 OPTN/SRTR Annual Report: Transplant Data 1992-2002. HHS/HRSA/SPB/DOT; UNOS; URREA.