Organ donations on the rise among Latinos at County-USC Medical Center

A surgeon prepares a donor kidney for transplant. A new study says organ donation by Latinos is on the rise in Los Angeles.
(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Latinos who die at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center are donating organs for transplantation at increasing rates, according to a new study.

Minorities have long been less willing than whites to donate their organs, a disparity widely attributed to mistrust of the medical system.

But among Latino patients at County-USC who met the medical criteria for organ donation, the share who consented -- either through their families or in advance through the state organ donation registry -- climbed steadily from 56% in 2005 to 83% in 2011.

In all, 107 people donated organs, according to the research, published this week in JAMA Surgery.


In each year except 2005, the consent rate among Latinos exceeded that of non-Latinos, whose donation rate went up and down year-to-year.

The study suggested that the trends could be related to education programs the researchers set up at churches, schools and clinics in Latino neighborhoods near the medical center. But it was impossible to know with any certainty, because the researchers did not track where the donors lived.

The lead author, Dr. Ali Salim, a trauma surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said his team is currently collecting data from the California organ donor registry that will provide a clearer picture of whether the education campaign is responsible for the rise in Latino donation.

Researchers will be able to look at the number of people who have joined the organ registry over time and compare the three ZIP codes where the education campaign was implemented with a fourth ZIP code that did not get the programs.

Latinos make up 16.9% of the U.S. population and, as of last week, 18.6% of the 123,118 people on U.S. transplant waiting lists.

Last year, they accounted for 13.6% of the 14,257 organ donors nationwide, according to Department of Health and Human Services.

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