'Organ Donation: A Life in the Balance': African Americans In Need Of Transplants, But Afraid To Be Donors

Felicia Middlebrooks
September 18, 2018 - 7:35 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Experts say 95 percent of American adults support organ donation, but only 54 percent sign up.  African Americans are the largest group of minorities in need of organ transplants, but most are afraid to become donors. WBBM Newsradio continues our series of special reports, Organ Donation: A Life in the Balance.

In our next report, the origin of that fear and why black mortality isn't always linked to income.

"Here in the state of Illinois approximately 5,000 individuals waiting for transplant of some sort - African Americans are what 17 percent of the population, maybe, of the state? Fifty-six percent of the people waiting for kidneys are black," said Jack Lynch, spokesman, Gift of Hope.

Journalist Renee Ferguson fought hard to save her husband. She met Jack when she covered Baby Quinn Kyles' 1991 heart transplant, an organ donor wake-up call for Chicago's black community, where mistrust is great and fear can trump logic.

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"And it is based on the fact that we just don't know enough about this subject until were are faced with it," Lynch said.

There's misunderstanding...

"You know they are just going to kill me and take my organs and give them to white people to save them. And that was a real attitude," Ferguson said. 

"Nine out of 10 organs that every African American recipient had is result of a white person, quite frankly donating," Lynch said.