Wisconsin Organ Registry Website Becomes Bilingual

Organ Registry Seeks Diversity By Using Spanish Language

"Donate Life" sign
Jay LaPrete/AP Photo

Research shows organ transplants have a higher rate of success when the donor and recipient are of the same ethnic background. But a state website where people can register and find out more about organ donation had only been in English for, now it’s also in Spanish.

“Now with DoneVidaWisconsin.org, the opportunity to at least understand the process and get more information about organ donation is available in Spanish,” said Dr. Francis Downey, surgical director of the Advanced Heart Failure Therapies program at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.

A screenshot of the Wisconsin Donor Registry website in Spanish taken Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

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The new bilingual Wisconsin Donor Registry website could help boost the percentage of Hispanics on the organ donor registry, Downey said.

Figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing show 7.4 percent of those waiting for transplants in Wisconsin are Hispanic, according to Donate Life Wisconsin, a nonprofit statewide collaborative of organ, tissue and eye recovery organizations, transplant hospitals and patient advocacy groups.

Currently, 39 percent of Hispanics are registered on the state donor registry, according to the nonprofit – which, along with the state, recently launched the bilingual website.

“When someone dies we send flowers, make monetary tributes to charities and such, but flowers wither and die; monetary tributes are spent,” said Downey. “But an organ can go on living in a recipient indefinitely. And that’s something good that comes out of an untimely death.”

According to the nonprofit, 56 percent of the state’s population is signed up to be an organ or tissue donor. But Downey said that’s not enough.

“The need will never be met,” said Downey, who specializes in heart and lung transplants. “There are thousands of patients on waiting lists that never get the opportunity to get a transplant, and their disease progresses and they pass while waiting for an organ donor.”

More transplants are being done across the nation and in Wisconsin, but the need keeps growing, Downey said.

“As medical science advances and patients age, more people develop end-stage organ failure that can (lead to) heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure. And because they live longer, their other systems are intact and they become candidates for transplants,” Downey said. “So the waiting list continues to grow. But the number of people donating greatly underserves the need.”