Many Hispanics hesitant about organ donation

Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:23am EDT
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters Life!) - When Norma Garcia's teenage daughter was killed in a car wreck, she did not know that a decision she would make would be so controversial and test her cultural identity and Christian faith.

After her daughter Jasmine Garcia, 13, was declared brain dead following the 2001 accident, doctors at San Antonio's University Hospital in Texas asked her if she would donate her daughter's organs.

"The majority of my family had a belief that, 'How could you do that? How could you allow her to be mutilated? How could you let them take her heart out?'" said Garcia, a real estate agent.

"My parents are from Mexico, and they had the feeling that, 'She is your daughter. Why would you allow them to do this to her?"

Garcia decided to donate Jasmine's heart and liver. It was a decision that left her estranged from several relatives for some time.

Her experience highlights a cultural divide that organ donation advocates say is threatening the ability of surgeons to save lives through organ transplants.

Hispanics, especially first- and second-generation Mexican-Americans, are less likely to donate organs than Americans as a whole, according to organ donation experts.

"We find that the Hispanic community tells us, 'My religion says not to donate,' and 'I can't have an open casket because the body will be damaged,'" said Esmeralda Perez of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.   Continued...