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Dr. Sander Florman, Louisville Native and Transplant Expert, on What People Should Know About Organ Donation

Louisville native Dr. Sander Florman returns home Thursday evening to talk about organ transplants at the Henry Clay Building.

Florman is the director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

During his speech entitled "Life Saving Organ Transplants-Ethics, Politics & Techonology," Florman will discuss organ transplantation and donation and his Kentucky upbringing.

Kentucky to the World, an organization that highlights prominent people with ties to Kentucky, will host the event.

Florman spoke with WFPL News ahead of his appearance.

What should people know about organ donation and transplantation?

The need for an organ transplant in the United States continues to grow at an incredible pace. There are over 125,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. The majority of them are waiting for a kidney transplant—over 90,000 people. And the most important thing to understand is that if these people had their transplant they would go back to very productive lives. The success of transplants is excellent and the success rate for kidney transplants is over 98 percent. The success rate of liver transplants is over 90 percent. So, these people, if they can get organ transplants, they can go on to be very productive members of society.

What are the most common organs needed for transplantation?

The most common is a kidney. We'll do about 200 kidney transplants here a year, about 100 liver transplants here a year and maybe 10 pancreas transplants and 10 intestines.

Can anyone be an organ donor?

There are two ways to get a transplant, for at least liver and kidney. You can get it from somebody that's brain dead or you can get it from a living donor. If you're lucky enough to have somebody you know or a family member, they can give you one of their kidneys. For the liver, we can actually take a piece of somebody's liver who's alive and give it to another person.

What are the risks involved with being a living donor? 

Living donation is something that as surgeons and physicians we go into hoping will go out of business. We shouldn't need to take a perfectly healthy person and put them at risk. So, the risk is small but it is real. The risk of giving a kidney is pretty small. It's estimated that the risk of dying giving a kidney is the risk of dying being pregnant.

What laws or policies are in place or are being looked at concerning organ donation and transplantation?

The way that organs are given out in the United States from these brain dead people is a national system. We're always looking to make that system better. Part of the problem is there are so many people waiting.

For each organ it's a little different. If you're waiting for a kidney, it's really based on how long you've waited because basically everybody who's on dialysis is considered just as sick and you can stay alive on dialysis. So, if you've been waiting one year, and I've been waiting four years, I should have more priority than you. In liver transplants there is a scoring system that's based on how sick you are, so that if you're much sicker than I am, you should get transplanted before me. Unfortunately, about 10 percent of the people waiting for a liver transplant die before ever getting the chance. So, we're constantly working on legislation with the government to make that system more fair and better.