Launches Campaign to Save 30 Lives in 30 Days
Washington, DC — Few people realize that U.S. law forces organ donors themselves to pay the costs of giving life to others. Living donors typically pay an average of $5,000, but often as much as $20,000 out of their own pockets — a shocking fact that costs thousands of American lives each year.
Tomorrow, on Giving Tuesday — December 2 — the Center for Ethical Solutions will launch the first-ever U.S. charity to support living organ donors regardless of race, creed or income. The goal of the campaign is to Save 30 Lives in 30 Days.
Operating initially as a featured non-profit of Charitable.org — the Kickstarter of charities — The American Living Organ Donor Fund (ALODF) will help people cover lodging, travel, and other expenses associated with donating organs.
Though U.S. law allows living donors, under very limited circumstances, to receive money to defray the costs of giving life, it generally prohibits individuals, charities and even the government from compensating people for donating organs.
Over 120,000 Americans are now on a waiting list for an organ donation, and thousands will die before they ever receive one — yet living donors of one kind or another could help 98% of them. ALODF will help all of them – kidney, bone marrow, liver, lung, intestine, and pancreas donors.
“Every single dollar we receive through this campaign will go directly to organ donors,” says Sigrid Fry-Revere, co-founder, President and CEO of the American Living Organ Donor Fund, and a 2014 TEDMED speaker. “We’re running it on a shoestring, and paying all the overhead ourselves.”
“I donated a kidney to my brother, who lives in another state. The cost of travel alone can be daunting,” says Rebecca Bertha, a co-founder of ALODF, and a former operating room nurse who now works as a Clinical Care Coordinator for the Section of Vascular Surgery at the University of Michigan.
“The original donation date was changed, as can happen with any transplant. Airlines charge large fees to change flights, and we had to pay them — twice. I had four family members traveling with me, so it was especially expensive,” Bertha continues. “I lost two weeks of vacation time to donate, and 25% of my weekly salary until I came back full time, after two months. I was lucky to have family close by, which helped with our food and lodging. For people without that kind of support, donation is basically unthinkable.”
This painful reality deters many people from donating organs that would save people’s lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of American households have no discretionary funds at all, and only 8 percent can afford to spend $5,000 donating organs without dipping into their savings or going into debt.
Though it will take several months for ALODF to earn its independent non-profit 501(c)3 status from the IRS, launching it as a project of the Center for Ethical Solutions, which is already recognized as a non-profit, public charity enables it to begin operations immediately.
“With the funds from this campaign, we can save lives right now,” says Mike Mittelman, one of ALODF’s co-founders. “We will also continue working to change the law to respect the needs of living organ donors.”