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Black Churches to Encourage Organ Donation

Worshippers at black churches in 20 states will be urged this weekend to consider organ donation.

The program, Linkages to Life, is aimed at raising awareness about organ donation among blacks, who suffer higher rates of diseases that damage the liver and kidneys.

The fourth annual effort will take place over the weekend at nearly 60 churches. Instead of just asking churchgoers to sign organ donor cards, as in the past, speakers from the pulpit will urge audience members to go home and talk about the issue in detail with family, said Victoria Dent, national chairwoman for Linkages.

Blacks comprise 18 percent of U.S. organ recipients, while whites comprise 63 percent, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Only 12 percent of organ donors are black, according to Linkages.

Minorities are three times more likely than whites to have kidney failure and account for over half of the 56,500 Americans waiting for kidney transplants. But they are less likely than whites to find a good genetic match and spend more time on the waiting list.

Nearly 25 percent of those who died waiting for an organ transplant last year were black.

Patient Richard Adams, a longtime deacon at Delaware Valley Baptist Church in Willingboro, received a kidney transplant in 2004 after his kidney failed due to damage from high blood pressure and diabetes.

He plans to describe his plight at a church service Saturday.

"I just want to encourage them," Adams said Wednesday. "Coming from a black environment, we don't like to give up our organs."