The National Kidney Foundation Launches Collaborative Organ Donation Effort with the International Cemetery and Funeral Association

New York, NY
August 8, 2000

Making end-of-life decisions means confronting one’s own mortality--not an easy task for most people. Yet advance planning can make an enormous difference in ensuring that wishes are carried out. Beyond the choice of funeral service, burial and memorial, health care and organ donation issues are central to completing the planning process. To help families communicate about these tough issues, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) has joined forces with the International Cemetery and Funeral Association (ICFA) to offer Take Time to Talk, a program encouraging family discussion about organ and tissue donation at the same time that other end-of-life decisions are being made.

The program’s centerpiece is a booklet walking families through the discussion process for this delicate issue. NKF and ICFA together have developed a training program to instruct ICFA-member prearrangement counselors about organ donation issues. The counselors involved in the program will be armed with the booklet to use as they guide families through end-of-life planning on a variety of issues. To date, ICFA counselors in the following cities are participating in the program: Ogden, Utah; Fort Worth, Texas, Indianapolis, Indiana; Los Angeles, California; and Seattle, Washington.

“Organ donation is often something people don’t think about until a tragedy strikes,” says John Davis, NKF chief executive officer, “But if planning is done in advance and the family becomes educated about the life-saving power of donation before they are in midst of dealing with the crisis such as the unexpected death of a loved one, they have the luxury of making the decision without pressure. Then when a situation arises, family members know the loved one’s feelings about donation and are eager to fulfill his wishes.”

Currently 70,000 Americans are on the national waiting list for transplants. Seventeen people die needlessly each day because there simply are not enough donors. Most family members do not know one another’s wishes about organ donation and so many potential donors go untapped.

“Our counselors advise consumers on a daily basis about veterans and Social Security benefits, living wills, memorialization arrangements and bereavement services in advance of actual needs,” says Patrick Downey, ICFA vice president of education. “During this time, we have a unique window of opportunity to include organ and tissue donation among these other important discussions. Our collaborative effort with Take Time to Talk will maximize this chance.”

The Take Time to Talk manual guides families on starting the discussion about organ donation and offers answers to the most commonly-asked questions about donation, as well as various religions’ beliefs about donation, key facts and statistics and sample organ donor cards.

The National Kidney Foundation is the nation’s largest voluntary agency dedicated to preventing and treating kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

Founded in 1887, ICFA is the only international trade association representing the entire funeral service and cemetery industry. Its membership is comprised of funeral homes, cemeteries and related businesses throughout North America and 23 foreign countries.

To learn more about Take Time to Talk call Catherine Paykin at the NKF, at (800) 622-9010.