Organ donors hard to find

Greeks are starting to warm to the idea of the need to donate vital organs, data released yesterday show, but the country has still the lowest number of donors in the European Union. According to the president of the National Transplant Organization, Alkiviades Costakis, the number of donors for every million people last year reached 8.9 from six or seven in 2004. This enabled 167 kidney transplants to take place in 2005, up 44 percent from the previous year when 116 were carried out. «We should, however, have about 300 kidney transplants on an annual basis in order to cover the needs of Greeks with kidney problems,» said Costakis. Medical authorities said that the appointment of doctors to hospitals who are given the job of convincing the relatives of potential donors – patients that are brain dead – to offer their organs has helped boost numbers. Of 219 potential donors between March and December 2005, only 88 agreed to have their organs transplanted. In the remaining cases, the transplant did not take place for medical reasons or because the relatives did not give the go-ahead. More work is needed in changing attitudes, as one donor can help save 10 people, doctors pointed out. «Greeks have not been convinced of the need, the importance or the sanctity of organ donation,» Costakis added. Although things have improved for kidney patients, those seeking a lung transplant are being forced to turn to medical authorities abroad as the operation is not yet available in Greece. Heart transplants in 2005 doubled to 10 while the number of liver transplants rose from 29 in 2004 to 34 last year.