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Organ donations and transplants in Latin America - statistics & facts

Despite some countries' efforts to increase organ donations, the practice of donating organs in Latin America is still uncommon, with rates ranging between 2.3 and 21.4 organ donors per million people in 2019. Brazil is the country with the largest number of organ donors in the region, with nearly 3.3 thousand effective and more than 10.6 thousand potential donors in 2020. However, the willingness of Brazilians to donate family member’s organs has remained relatively steady in recent years, with around 39 percent of families not willing to give away a relative's organ.

Long waiting lists

It is partly because of this unwillingness to donate that many people in Latin America spend protracted periods on waiting lists for organ transplants. In Argentina, for example, more than 3,500 patients (around 36.7 percent of those on donation waiting lists) have been waiting for three or more years to receive a needed organ as of July 2021. While the majority of those on waiting lists for organ transplants in the country were either middle-aged or elderly, 1,265 of the 9,614 patients were under the age of 30.

Considering 2020 figures, kidney is the organ with the highest number of waiting patients in Latin American countries: nearly 30 thousand in Brazil, close to 17 thousand in Mexico, and around 2.7 thousand in Colombia have a chronic kidney disease and are in the need of a transplant. At the same time, corneas, are the type of tissue with the highest number of waiting patients in the region, as 14 thousand in Brazil, as well as more than 5.6 thousand in Mexico await corneal transplants.

Latin America on a global perspective

Despite the long lists, the number of procedures in the region is somewhat low compared with other countries. For example, the rate of Latin American patients having received an organ transplant in 2019 ranged from a high of 56 patients per million population in Uruguay, to a low of 1.6 patients per million population in Venezuela. This compared with transplant rates in other nations, such as 116.8 patients per million population in the U.S., 114.8 patients per million population in Spain, or 44.2 patient per million population in Germany. In terms of the total number of organ transplants performed, Brazil carried out more of these medical procedures than any other Latin American country in 2020.

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