Q: Can I donate one of my lungs now to someone awaiting a transplant?
A: Dozens of people across the country have asked that question, touched by the plight of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan of Newtown Square.
Altruistic as the idea may be, the simple answer is: No.
While living donor transplants of a kidney or part of a liver are now routine, few have been done with lungs from living donors. Transplant surgeons say it's just too risky for both the donor and recipient.
Another possibility is designating the recipient of your deceased loved ones' lungs. Sarah's parents made a plea for such a "directed donation."
But "successful designated donations are so rare that the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that oversees transplants in the United States, does not track them," according to Gift of Life Donor Program, which coordinates transplants in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware.
HIV and active cancer normally exclude people from donating organs after death, but there is no set age limit for donors. At the time of death, the organs are evaluated to determine their suitability for transplant.
The best way to donate organs is still the conventional way: add the donor designation to your driver's license or state I.D. You can do this online at the states' motor vehicles sites, each of which is linked from the Gift of Life's site: www.donors1.org/registry/