LOS ANGELES (BUSINESS WIRE – March 24, 2011) – The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations has signed an agreement the international Buddhist charitable organization, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation.
AOPO represents all 58 federally-designated organ recovery agencies in the U.S., and called the agreement a common goal of saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation, and said it would to strengthen the existing relationship between organ procurement organizations and 80 Tzu Chi offices nationwide.
This is the first agreement of its kind in the organ recovery arena between a major international relief group and American organ recovery agencies. The agreement was formally signed on March 24 at the Tzu Chi Community Clinic in El Monte, Calif.
“The agreement enables Tzu Chi communities to expand their work with their local Organ Procurement Organizations to help comfort and inspire families across the country to give the gift of life knowing that the decision is consistent with their religious and spiritual beliefs,” stated AOPO President Jeffrey Orlowski. “Together AOPO and Tzu Chi can help more families in crisis to save lives and demonstrate compassion through their choice to donate.”
Under the agreement, AOPO and its members may provide informational and educational resources on organ, eye and tissue donation education to the Tzu Chi leadership and its community members; help train key leaders and members about donation; and incorporate Tzu Chi in donor registry programs to increase Asian and Buddhist registration rates.
Tzu Chi will provide education training to their members – 100,000 in the U.S. alone – to promote donor registration in the United States as well as provide support to donor families in hospitals with culturally appropriate services.
In implementing this agreement, Tzu Chi will increase its efforts to inspire and educate the Asian community nationwide about organ donation.
“Organ donation is one of the greatest acts of compassion, the ultimate final act for an individual at the end of one’s life,” said Debra Boudreaux, CEO of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, quoting the Master Cheng Yen’s teaching. “We only have the right to use our lives, not the right to own them.
“When one dies, one’s body can no longer serve its purpose and is either cremated or buried,” she added. “Those who agree to donation hope to pass their healthy organs on to others so they may continue to function and support the living. Through organ donation, a body that might have been buried will instead benefit and save many lives. Such acts of giving are enormously worthwhile.”
The agreement is based on a relationship of more than two decades in which Tzu Chi – considered the largest non-governmental agency in the Chinese community – has worked with OneLegacy, the organ and tissue recovery agency serving the seven counties around Los Angeles, to offer community volunteer training and providing charity, medical assistance and grief support to those in need, regardless of race or religion.
“The cultural and language support given by the Tzu Chi community to Buddhist and Chinese-speaking families has been invaluable,” said Tom Mone, CEO and executive vice president of OneLegacy.
In its many years of serving Californians, Tzu Chi has helped both organ donor families and recipients. In 2002, 32-year-old Ardy Gau, the eldest child of Charles and Lily Gau of Reseda, Calif., died unexpectedly. During their difficult time of emotional turmoil, the Gaus agreed to donate their son’s organs and saved three lives. Tzu Chi was there to help with emotional and spiritual support.
“As I look back, even though he is gone, the fact that his organs are continuing to help someone else live a good life makes it feel that he is not really gone. Instead, part of him is still alive, still here with me and my family on earth,” said Charles Gau. “From my experience, I want people to know that death does not mean an end to life.
“Organ donation can help your family establish a legacy of the loved one who is no longer around,” he added. “What is important is for people to understand what it means to be a donor and how comforting it has been to my family to know that we made a gift of love on his behalf.”