MYTHS ABOUT ORGAN AND TISSUE DONATION
Because transplantation is still a relatively new and evolving science, it is understandable that people create and spread rumors about donation. Here are ten of the most common misconceptions and the reality behind them.
1. If I am in an accident and the hospital knows that I want to be a donor, they won’t try as hard to save me.
Reality: The medical team treating the patient is completely separate from the transplant team. The transplant team is not contacted until the patient has died and the family has consented to donation.
2. They’ll take out my organs before I’m dead.
Reality: Brain death – that is, when the brain dies due to lack of blood and oxygen – is a medically, legally and morally accepted determination of death. Two licensed physicians must independently make the diagnosis of brain death before the potential donor’s family is presented with the opportunity to donate.
3. My body or my loved one’s body will be mutilated.
Reality: The body of the donor is treated with great respect throughout the process. Donated organs and tissue are removed surgically in a routine operation similar to abdominal surgery. Donation does not preclude an open-casket funeral.
4. Only famous and wealthy people get organ transplants.
Reality: The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the nation’s transplant centers manage the waiting list, which includes each potential recipient’s weight, height and blood group. Priority depends on many factors, including urgency of need, length of time on waiting list, blood type and size compatibility. Race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when organs are allocated.
5. My religion does not support donation.
Reality: All organized religions support donation, typically considering it as a gift from the heart and a matter of individual choice.
6. My family will need to pay for the procedure.
Reality: A donor’s family is not charged for any procedure, test or medical supplies associated with the donation process. From the time of consent, all costs are paid by organ/tissue recovery agency.
7. I am too old to be a donor.
Reality: Donors can range in age from several weeks to 75 or older. Also, senior citizens may inspire others in their family to consider donation.
8. My health problems would prevent me from being a donor.
Reality: Many of today’s donors have pre-existing medical conditions. The patient or specific organs or tissue may be ruled out based on a detailed medical evaluation.
9. The recipient will know who I am.
Reality: Information about the donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests it. Otherwise, the strictest confidence of patient privacy is maintained.
10. If I donate, my funeral will be delayed.
Reality: The only delay would be if the Coroner wishes to examine the body, in which case, he might delay the mortuary proceedings.