Gudelia Bustamante's heart-liver transplant prompted her husband Bob to become an outspoken supporter of organ donation -- and a role model for the Latino community.
"Many Hispanics don't believe in organ donations," the Tulare man said. "All of our family members are registered organ donors now."
He has agreed to be an ambassador for Donate A Life, a support group.
Cultural barriers can impede organ donation registration, experts say.
Many Latinos view planning for death as inviting bad luck, said Elena de la Cruz, spokeswoman for One Legacy, which coordinates organ donations for seven counties in the greater Los Angeles Area and Kern County.
"Open casket funerals are very important, and people think you'll be disfigured," she said.
Yet when Latino families are asked directly at the hospital to donate a loved one's organs after they have died, they are likely to consent, statistics show.
Statewide, about 70% of Hispanic families faced with donating a loved one's organs give consent, said Tony Borders, communications manager for the California Transplant Donor Network. Among Caucasian families, the figure is about 80%
More Hispanics are signing up for the national donor registration list via the Department of Motor Vehicles and other methods. But there are more gains to be made and the answer is public education, according to an article published this month in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Surgery.
It makes sense for Hispanics to register as organ donors because they account for a greater portion of the transplant wait list than any other ethnicity -- 33% compared to 30% for Caucasians in Northern California and Reno, and 57%, compared to 22% for the Fresno region, said Marcela Corona, community development liaison for the California Transplant Donor Network, which coordinates organ donation in that region.
The best way to donate is to register as an organ donor and tell your loved one your wishes, she said.
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