The problem the medical community faces in convincing people to agree to donate vital organs may be tied to the problems most have with facing the prospect of something that is inevitable — death. But statistics showing that 400 patients in Texas died last year waiting for organ transplants ought to be incentive for more healthy individuals to do so.

For several years before 1996, Texans could sign a line on the back of a Texas driver license and have a witness sign as well. But the consent was legally questionable, and transplant advocates were reluctant to fight families whose loved ones decided not to honor the signed indication when their loved one died unexpectedly.

The process is less uncertain now. The Texas Department of State Health Services announced last week that it has created a new Web site for Texans to register as organ, tissue and eye donors. Information about organ donation and instructions for registering online can be found on the site, http://www.DonateLifeTexas.org. There, additional educational information about the organ donation process can be found. It replaces a site that has attracted 4,000 online registrants, in addition to 57,000 who placed their names on the list when getting or renewing a driver license.

The Web-based registry helps streamline the donation process at a time when medical decisions and procedures must happen quickly. The registry also helps expedite finding out if a person who dies had wanted to donate organs, tissues and eyes.

Registration online takes less than five minutes. Donor data is protected, and only authorized organ procurement organizations and tissue and eye banks can access registrant information.

The number of people waiting for transplants has grown by nearly 47 percent since 2001, according to information from the United Network of Organ Sharing. That’s 96,000 Americans in all, including 7,000 in Texas. Someone is added to the list every 17 seconds.

The registry is named in memory of State Rep. Dawson, a kidney transplant recipient, who championed the cause of organ donation. The Texas Legislature, which mandated the registry, stipulated in May that it be renamed in Dawson’s memory.

Modern medicine is doing miracles to prolong and improve patients’ lives, but in some situations, doctors rely on the caring gifts of other people to make it possible. While we are alive, one such gift is blood. When life ends, one of the greatest gifts imaginable is the gift of life for someone else.

Brownwood Bulletin