THURSDAY, April 25, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of Americans now say they would consider donating a kidney to a stranger, a new survey finds.
The number was even higher -- 84 percent -- when the Mayo Clinic's national poll asked respondents whether they would be very or somewhat likely to consider donating a kidney or portion of their liver to a close friend or family member.
The results reveal an uptick in people's willingness to consider donating an organ. A 2001 Gallup survey found that 76 percent of respondents would likely donate a kidney to a close friend, while 24 percent said they would give a kidney to a stranger.
The new findings are encouraging, said Dr. Mikel Prieto, surgical director of kidney transplantation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"As living organ donation becomes more widely known and accepted -- and as the safety and surgical proficiency continue to improve -- we hope that more people will come forward and offer to help loved ones who need kidney and liver transplants," Prieto said in a Mayo news release. "It's also very heartening to hear that the willingness to consider donating a kidney to a stranger has increased so significantly."
The survey also found that 61 percent of respondents would want their organs donated after they die and 51 percent said they have formally indicated their wishes by registering as an organ donor. Respondents aged 35 to 44 were most likely to want to donate their organs after death.
Older people may not know that organ donation generally has no age limit and that it may still be possible even for people with a history of cancer or other serious medical conditions.
"Here at Mayo Clinic, we have successfully transplanted organs from donors who are in their 70s and 80s, providing an amazing gift of life to older or very sick recipients who may not have lived long enough to receive another organ," Prieto said.
April is National Donate Life Month. More than 118,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about organ donation.