Houston is doing better than most big cities at convincing minorities to participate in organ and tissue donation programs. That’s the word today from local donation officials on National Minority Donor Awareness Day.
There are more than 90,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists across the nation and more than half of them are minorities. Partly because of long-standing distrust within the community, the number of minorities who agree to donate organs and tissue is very low. Dallas Foster is an African-American who received a new heart six years ago. “Right now minorities receive one out of every three organs donated, but we only donate one in nine, so there’s a large disparity there,” says Foster, who has since competed in the Transplant Games in tennis and volleyball. “If we can just make a dent in that particular number, then we can actually have a significant impact on the total number of people receiving transplants.”
Sam Holtzman is the president and CEO of LifeGift, a local organ procurement organization, and says many minority’s are still leery about organ donation. “That’s changing, and that’s really changed a lot here in Houston, where 40-percent of our donors are minorities. We’re doing a great job in Houston, with a lot of fine support from the African-American and Hispanic communities here,” says Holtzman.
In June, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a law that created the state’s first official organ donation registry. Residents can join the registry by indicating they’d like to become organ donors when they renew their drivers licenses or license plates.