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Making the Decision to Give Medical ‘Gifts’

July 9, 2015

Doctor Consults with Patient About Specimen Donation

Every day families in the middle of terrible crisis have to decide whether or not to donate their loved ones’ vital organs at the time of death. Organ donors and their next of kin, who consent to help provide life, or improve quality of life, often to complete strangers, are precious gift-givers to other patients and families. Further, knowing that the loss of their loved one has saved other lives can help family members cope with the pain.

This weekend a story from Wisconsin shared the success of a state-wide initiative in which individuals can provide advance consent to donate their own organs if they are ever in a situation where life is unsustainable –eliminating the burden of their next of kin having to make important decisions during a crisis. Statistics show that many patients at their final hour want to help others when their own journey is near over.

In addition to these important ‘gifts’ at end of life, there is another way to contribute, well before the end of life is near: Patients are increasingly being asked to donate biospecimens to advance medical research during routine doctor’s office visits and awareness around this way of ‘giving back’ is growing.

Each day, thousands of liquid and solid specimens arrive in medical labs to undergo diagnostic testing and screening. However, once testing is complete, these specimens are generally thrown away. But, much like organ donation, studies show that patients are willing to help. Remnant human specimens can be de-identified and used for potentially life-saving and life-changing research to create tomorrow’s diagnostics and cures. Across one set of studies, 53-90% of patients were willing to allow use of their clinical discards for research ( The more we discuss this way to give, the more people will be able to contribute during their course of life, giving the scientific community the bolster it needs to continue advancing medicine. Human biospecimens are critical to biomedical research and are often in short supply.

It is clear that people want to help regardless of the stage of life they are in. As a company committed to helping further medical research, and helping patients understand the difference they can make, iSpecimen believes the type of goodwill seen in Wisconsin will be replicated for biospecimen donation as awareness continues to grow. We know that every specimen donation could save our own, or our relative’s life down the road.

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