Despite continuing efforts at public education, misconceptions and inaccuracies about organ and tissue donation persist. It’s a tragedy if even one person decides against donation because they don’t know the truth.
As part of Donate Life month we thought debunking some of these commonly believed myths about donation would be helpful. Perhaps you have heard these myths, or believed some of them yourself. Here are the facts vs. the fiction of organ and tissue donation.
Common Myths of Organ and Tissue Donation:
Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. Many states have adopted legislation allowing individuals to legally designate their wish to be a donor should brain death occur, although in many states organ procurement organizations also require consent from the donor’s family.
Myth: Having “organ donor” noted on your driver’s license or carrying a donor card is all you have to do to become a donor.
Fact: In most states, hospitals can legally proceed with organ, eye, or tissue donation, without consent from next of kin, if you have a driver’s license with an “organ donor” designation, or have signed up with an organ donor registry. However, it’s important to talk to your family about your decision to donate life so they are aware of your wishes and will feel comfortable honoring them.
Myth: Only hearts, livers, and kidneys can be transplanted.
Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.
Myth: A history of medical illness means your organs or tissues are unfit for donation.
Fact: At the time of death, the appropriate medical professionals will review your medical and social histories to determine whether or not you can be a donor. With recent advances in transplantation, many more people than ever before can be donors. It’s best to tell your family your wishes and sign up to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver’s license or an official donor document.
Myth: You are too old to be a donor.
Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.
Myth: If you agree to donate your organs, your family will be charged for the costs.
Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.
Myth: Your religion prohibits organ donation.
Fact: All major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.
In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends, and even individuals who wish to remain anonymous may serve as living donors for the more than 100,000 people on the national organ transplant waiting list.
During each of the past five years, more than 6,200 transplants were made possible by living donors. A living donor can save and greatly improve the quality of life of a transplant candidate.