5 Myths About Organ Donation
Your one body can have a tremendous impact: just one organ donor can save up to 8 lives. Currently, more than 123,000 people are waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An average of 18 people die everyday waiting for organs, and yet a recent study found that over one-third of Americans were hesitant to register as donors.
The decision to donate is a very personal one, but unfortunately a lot of myths surround organ donation and this misinformation sometimes stops people from donating. Whether you choose to donate or not, it’s important to have accurate information about this process. Here are five myths about organ donation and the actual facts.
Myth: Doctors won’t treat me as aggressively if they know I’m a donor.
Fact: As doctors, our guiding principle is “first do no harm,” which means that our main goal is to save lives. If you are a registered organ donor, that has no bearing on the quality of care you receive. If you come into the emergency room for treatment, we do everything we can to save you. In cases of brain injuries, even if lifesaving measures are unsuccessful, we conduct a series of tests to confirm death before we ever discuss potential organ donation with the registered organ donor’s family.
Myth: It’s not worth it to register if I only have one viable organ.
Fact: It is still worth it to register for organ donation, whether you only have one kidney or a liver. Medical staff will review your medical and social history at the time of death to determine whether your organ is suitable for donation. As I mentioned before, thousands of people are in need of an organ, so every donation—no matter how small—could potentially save a life.
Myth: I am too young or too old to donate.
Fact: There aren’t any age requirements for organ donation. However, if you are under 18, your parents need to consent for organ donation. Many children need organ donations and younger people have small organs that are a better match for them.
If you’d like to become a registered organ donor, all you need to do is indicate so on your driver’s license. You also should tell your family that you are donor, so they know how to carry out your wishes in the event something happens. You can also register on this website.
Myth: I’m high-risk, so I can’t donate.
Fact: Nearly 10 percent of U.S. donors are considered high risk for infection, according to the CDC. Naturally, this is a cause for concern. However, in some cases organs from high-risk donors can be safe if they are properly screened. We use strict medical criteria to determine whether an organ is suitable for donation—and this process is just as thorough for high risk donors. We also perform tests to determine whether a potential donor has certain infections, such as HIV and Hepatitis B or C. Transplant centers aren’t allowed to use organs from donors with HIV, but they can use organs from donors with Hepatitis B or C if the recipient also has this infection, or in some cases, when it is medically urgent.
Myth: If I’m in an accident, there’s nothing left to donate.
Fact: Depending on the nature of the accident, there may be many viable organs or only few. But if you are registered a registered organ donor, we won’t know whether your organs or tissues are suitable for donation until the time of death. As long as you meet the medical criteria for donation and blood and oxygen still flow to your organs, we can use them to save another life.
There are currently over 123,000 individuals waiting for transplants. Though many people donate, we need more people to take the step of registering as organ donors. You can play a part in minimizing the shortage of organs in order to save countless lives.
My passion for organ donation advocacy led me to start my organization, Gr8 to Don8. We partner with high schools and colleges to educate, and hold an annual 8K charity run in the Longwood area. Click here to learn more.