By Albuquerque Journal
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Opinion: Consider being organ donor in Donate Life Month


Last updated 4/9/2022 at 9:58am

April is National Donate Life Month.

And a total of 1,010,536 New Mexicans with driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards are registered as donors, according to New Mexico Taxation and Revenue. Last year, through March 31, 2021 (the latest figures available) 74,540 out of about 136,000 people issued credentials during the preceding 12 months chose to become organ donors.

That gave New Mexico a donor designation rate of around 55%, well above the national average of 47%.

It’s heartening to know so many are willing to give the gift of life when theirs ends. In that same vein, we encourage New Mexicans to consider donating their bodies when they die to train the physicians who work to help keep us healthy.

COVID has wreaked all sorts of havoc on people’s health, supply chains and the economy. It’s also disrupted the number of donated bodies arriving at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine.

Amy Rosenbaum, director of UNM’s Anatomical Donation Program, said the Anatomy Lab needs 75 bodies each year for students and resident physicians but has only 23 now.

There are many reasons for that, but in general, the pandemic has reordered priorities. “People have to be preregistered to donate their bodies to us,” Rosenbaum said. “Everyone is so worried about COVID, they are not thinking ahead.”

Many donors are motivated by the idea of contributing to medical knowledge. Donors are considered a medical student’s “first instructor.” But there’s also a very practical upside. The donation program covers costs of embalming, transportation and cremating the cadaver once it has served its purpose as a teaching aid.

The trade-off is that while families can have memorial services to honor their loved ones, there is no burial or cremation — though families can receive cremains 18 to 24 months after death.

Rosenbaum said 3,000 people are signed up to donate their bodies to the Anatomy Lab, “but we don’t know when they are going to die.” On top of that, many bodies on the donor list may get screened out — those with viruses or contagious diseases, subjected to intravenous drug abuse or deadly trauma or died requiring an autopsy. Donor cadavers need to be the product of death by natural causes — people who die in their sleep, of heart attacks or cancer. They can’t be obese or have had recent surgery.

You can donate organs or your cadaver but not both — but you can and should register for both, because a registered organ donor might not die under the extremely specific conditions that make their organs viable for donation. If they’re on the cadaver list, their bodies can still help a student acquire life-saving knowledge.

This April, consider becoming an organ donor and donating your body to the UNM School of Medicine. It will be treated with care by grateful future doctors and help the health of New Mexicans.

For more information on organ donation, go to

— Albuquerque Journal


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