It is a gut-wrenching thought for most if not all parents to even think about the imminent or actual death of a child. That is the reality every day for up to 10 families.
At the same time, thousands of families fear they may become one of those 10 families if their child does not receive a new heart or kidney.
The challenge is the rarity of child deaths and the necessity for the size of the organ available to be within 20 percent of the weight of the recipient.
Of the 2 to 10 children dying in hospital each day, only a few of them are eligible donors. Out of those eligible donors, only a fraction of the families will decide to do so.
That is what makes infant/child organ donation such an important topic.
Organ Donation Statistics for Young Children
- The mortality rate for children between the ages of one and five is the highest out of all pediatric age groups waiting for kidney transplants. (Magee)
- “Children less than 5 years of age ... have a much higher death rate compared to any other age group.” (McDiarmid)
- 40 percent of the children waiting for heart transplants are between 1 and 5 years of age. The highest number of children waiting for heart transplants is in infants under 24 months. (Magee)
- As of 2008, 1935 children were on the transplant waiting list and in the last 5 years, 1308 children have died waiting. (McDiarmid)
- “More than 70% of the children on the list are waiting for a liver or a kidney, and the small bowel is the organ with the greatest increase in need.” (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Considerations for Infant Organ Donation
Since about 1970, eligibility for organ transplant was based on someone being declared brain dead. That is, their hearts were still beating, but all brain activity has stopped.
Up until the 1970s when technology made it possible to measure brain activity, cardiac death was the only criterion for death. More recently, “donation after cardiac death” method or DCD became accepted.