Health

Iowa organ donations reach record-breaking high in 2019

290 organs transplanted last year, 43 more than 2018

Gov. Kim Reynoldson Monday, May 6, 2019, signs Logan's Law with Rep. Todd Prichard D-Charles City, Sen. Waylon Brown R-S
Gov. Kim Reynoldson Monday, May 6, 2019, signs Logan's Law with Rep. Todd Prichard D-Charles City, Sen. Waylon Brown R-St. Ansgar, Suzanne Conrad, CEO of the Iowa Donor Network, Logan Luft's family and the Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg standing next to her. (Thomas Nelson/Waterloo Courier)

Iowa saw the highest number of organ donations in the state’s history in 2019, marking the second year in a row of a record-breaking number in donations.

A total of 92 Iowans had authorized donating 290 organs for transplant this past year, according to the Iowa Donor Network, the state’s organ procurement organization,

In 2018 — another record-breaking year for the state — 74 deceased donors accounted for 247 organ transplants.

“I am thrilled that Iowa Donor Network was able to save more lives in 2019 than in any previous year,” Iowa Donor Network CEO Suzanne Conrad said in a statement. “I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the many Iowa donor families who made this life-giving accomplishment possible.”

The Iowa Donor Network also reported a total of 929 tissue donors in 2019. The organization, with the Iowa Lion’s Eye Bank, also helped facilitate 936 cornea recoveries throughout the year.

Nationwide, nearly 40,000 organ transplants were performed in 2019, making last year the seventh consecutive record-breaking year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a federal-private partnership that manages the nation’s organ transplant system.

There were more than 19,000 total donors, including 11,900 deceased donors, nationwide in 2019, the network reported.

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The increase in statewide organ donations can be “directly connected” to increase in the number of Iowans joining the state’s donor registry, the Iowa Donor Network stated.

Their data shows that 77 percent of Iowans aged 18 and older are registered as donors.

Since 2015, the number of adults on the registry has increased 14 percent.

“I believe the increase in organ donors, organs transplanted and number of adults in Iowa registered as donors is the result of both a growing awareness about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation and the willingness of Iowans to become donors,” said Heather Butterfield, spokeswoman for the Iowa Donor Network.

Butterfield pointed to the families of Logan Luft of Charles City and Drew Lienemann of Waukee, who have become strong advocates for organ donation. Luft and Lienemann were young Iowans who became donors after their deaths in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Luft’s family helped lobby for Logan’s Law, a state law passed in the 2019 Legislative session that allows individuals to register as donors when obtaining a hunting or fishing license.

The state’s donor registry saw nearly 1,000 new names in the first four months after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources launched its donor registry, which went live in September 2019, Butterfield said.

The Iowa Donor Network is not actively lobbying for any state legislation at this time, Butterfield said.

And because of this “unprecedented levels of donor activity,” the organization also announced it has hired more staff to provide more donation services to families after the loss of a loved one.

“The Iowa Donor Network continuously strives to increase the number of organ donors in order to help reduce the number of people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States,” Butterfield said.

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... We look forward to continuing our partnerships with the Iowa DOT and Iowa DNR and will continue to enhance our education and outreach efforts in order to grow the donor registry.”

More than 580 are on the organ waiting list in Iowa, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. The vast majority of those individuals — a total of 519 — were waiting for a kidney transplant as of Jan. 2.

The United Network for Organ Sharing estimates more than 112,000 individuals nationwide were on the waiting list for an organ transplant as of Tuesday.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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