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Top 10 Common Organ Donation Myths Debunked

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Did you know each donor can save up to 9 lives and impact 75 more? Approximately 107,000 men, women and children are on the national organ transplant waiting list and someone new joins this list roughly every 10 minutes. People in need of an organ transplant are often very ill, and each day 17 people on average die while waiting for a life-saving transplant. In 2022 alone, 42,800 transplants were performed in the United States. 

While 90% of American adults are in favor of organ donation, only 60% are actually registered as donors.

There is a lot of false information circulating about organ donation such as who is eligible to be a donor, what happens to the organs once they are donated and what will happen to the organ donor in the event of an emergency. Below are the most common falsehoods related to the organ donation process. Hopefully, by better understanding how organ donation works and who benefits, you may be persuaded to become an organ donor this year too.

I Have a Medical Condition, So I Can’t Be an Organ Donor — MYTH

Regardless of age or medical history, anyone can sign up to be a donor. At the time of an individual's death, the transplant team will determine whether a donation is possible. There are very few conditions that would prevent a person from becoming a donor, such as:

  1. Active cancer
  2. Systemic infection
  3. HIV

It is important to know that those with HIV, hepatitis c, coronavirus or who have previously had Hepatitis B can be a donor to the appropriate recipient. However, you should still consider registering as an organ donor because even with an illness, you may be able to donate your organs or tissues.

I’m Too Old to Be an Organ Donor — MYTH

There's no age limit to organ donation. To date, the oldest donor in the U.S. was age 93. What matters is the health and condition of your organs when you die.

My Religion Doesn’t Support Organ Donation — MYTH

Most major religions in the United States support organ donation and consider donation as the final act of love and generosity toward others. The U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation has actually compiled a list of official statements and policies released by religious leaders which you can find here. If you are unsure or uncomfortable though, contact someone at the clergy within your church or place of worship for a consultation.

People in the LGBT Community Can't Donate — MYTH

There is no policy or federal regulation that excludes a member of the LGBT community from donating organs. What matters in donating organs is the health of the organs.

If I Am an Organ Donor, Doctors Won’t Try to Save My Life at the Hospital — MYTH

When you are sick or injured and admitted to a hospital, the one and only priority is to save your life. Period. Donation doesn’t become a possibility until all lifesaving methods have failed. It’s important to understand that the circumstances for becoming a deceased donor are very narrow and specific, and most often are related to a severe head trauma, stroke or brain injury.

The System Is Rigged, and Rich and Famous People on the Waiting List Get Organs Faster — MYTH

A national computer system matches donated organs to recipients. There are several factors used to match organs with patients in need. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a federally regulated non-profit has policies and computerized networks that prioritize transplant candidates with donated organs in ways that save as many lives as possible, along with providing patients with the best chance of long-term wellness. Factors such race, ethnicity, religion, income, insurance or celebrity play absolutely no role in who is prioritized for transplant.

My Family Won’t Be Able to Have an Open Casket Funeral If I Am an Organ Donor — MYTH

An open-casket funeral is usually possible for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, respect and dignity.

My Family Will Have to Pay for the Donation — MYTH

There is no cost to donors or their families for organ or tissue donation.

Someone Could Take My Organs and Sell Them — MYTH

Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators can be punished with prison sentences and fines.

If I’m In a Coma, the Hospital Could Take My Organs — MYTH

The majority of deceased organ donors are patients who have been declared brain dead. But brain death is NOT the same as coma. Patients can recover from coma, but not from brain death. Brain death is irreversible and the patient cannot recover.

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