Sixty-two Maryland families donated relatives' organs for transplant in 1991, up 19 percent from the year before, according to the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland.
The donations gave new hope to 192 patients whose own hearts, lungs, kidneys or other organs had failed.
But the center's executive director, Mark Reiner, said the need for organ donations continues to outstrip the supply. More than 400 Marylanders, and 23,000 people nationwide, are waiting on a variety of lists for suitable organs to become available.
Gallup Polls have found that more than 70 percent of Americans say they would allow donations of relatives' organs and tissues if the opportunity arose.
But fewer actually do say yes when the situation confronts them.
Mr. Reiner said about half of all Maryland families who are approached about donating their loved ones' organs say yes. The national rate is 40 percent to 60 percent.
More hospitals are approaching families about the possibility of donating the organs of their relatives, he said.
It is up to hospital physicians to determine when a brain-dead patient has healthy organs suitable for transplant.
Only after relatives have been informed that the patient is brain dead will a hospital physician or center staff member approach them about options for organ donations.
"The most important thing, whether you decide to donate or not, is to tell your family," Mr. Reiner said. "Because with or without a donor card, we will always approach the next of kin" for their permission before taking organs.
In 1991, the Transplant Resource Center received referrals on 237 potential organ donors. Families of about half those potential donors gave their permission. Because of the need to match tissues and other factors, 192 organs were transplanted from just 62 donors. That was an increase from 52 in 1990, Mr. Reiner said.
People seeking information about organ donations should call the Transplant Resource Center at (410) 328-3626.