Transplants can be successful regardless of the ethnicity of the donor and recipient. However, the chance of longer-term survival may be greater if the donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of their shared genetic background.
Does Race or Ethnicity Matter in Organ, Eye and Tissue Transplantation?
Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, income, celebrity and social status are never part of the consideration when it comes to matching donor organs and tissues for transplantation. Organs are matched with people on the national transplant waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type and time on the waiting list. Because these are the factors considered in organ matching, patients frequently and successfully receive transplants from donors of different races and ethnicities.
Increased diversity in the donor population can lead to increased access to transplantation for all, and the chance of longer-term survival may be improved if the donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of their shared genetic background. This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—important factors for donor and recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same race or ethnicity.
The Need for Diverse Organ, Eye and Tissue Donors
People of color are more likely to be in need of a lifesaving transplant. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “African Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders are three times more likely than Caucasians to suffer from end-stage renal disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions.” Although patients in need of a transplant can find organ matches from donors of other ethnic groups, having a diverse donor pool makes it easier to find a match for all patients.
Organ Donation Across Race & Ethnicity
- The national transplant waiting list currently stands at more than 100,000 people, with more than 60% of those waiting representing racial and ethnic minorities. 17 people die every day waiting for a transplant.
- The need for donation and transplant is more pronounced in minority communities where disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease contribute to organ failure, especially kidney failure. African Americans are three times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.
- On average, African American/Black transplant candidates wait longer than non-Black transplant candidates for kidney, heart, and lung transplants. These healthcare disparities reinforce the need for National Minority Donor Awareness Month education and outreach to help heal and save lives in our communities.
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month
National Minority Donor Awareness Month is a collaborative initiative of the National Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation Multicultural Action Group (NMAG) to save and improve the quality of life of diverse communities by creating a positive culture for organ, eye and tissue donation. National Minority Donor Awareness Month stems from National Minority Donor Awareness Week, founded in 1996 by the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) to bring heightened awareness to donation and transplantation in multicultural communities – focusing primarily on African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American communities.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Minority Donor Awareness Day/Week/Month, founded by the National MOTTEP to:
- Educate about organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation
- Encourage donor registration & family conversations about donation
- Promote healthy living and disease prevention to decrease the need for transplantation
NMAG members include: American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB), the American Kidney Fund, Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation (AMAT), Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), Donate Life America (DLA), Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) National Kidney Foundation (NKF), The Links, Incorporated, the Transplant Life Foundation, and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
Learn more about how you can promote organ, eye and tissue donation during National Minority Donor Awareness Month.
Register for Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation
Although race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, income, celebrity and social status are not considered when matching organs and tissues, a greater diversity of donors may increase access to transplantation for people of all ethnicities. Register as an organ, eye and tissue donor now and give the gift of life!