Debunking 5 Common Myths About Organ Donation

Feb 12 • 2016

Did you know that more than 123,000 people in the United States alone are currently waiting for an organ transplant that would save their lives? It is estimated that one name is added to the transplant waiting list every 12 minutes. One person who has passed away but agreed to be a donor has the ability to save up to eight lives with their organs and change over 100 lives by donating tissue.

In honor of National Donor Day, we’re shedding some light on a few of the most common myths about organ donation.

Myth #1: I’m too old to be an organ donor.
Many people assume that you have to be a certain age in order to be an organ donor, but the truth is there is no set age limit for donating organs or tissue. When someone passes away, doctors evaluate each patient individually to determine whether their organs or tissue are appropriate for donation. No matter how old you are, it is important to communicate to your loved ones if you wish to be a donor and make sure that you check the correct box on your driver’s license.

Myth #2: Doctors won’t adhere to my wishes.
One common worry is that if you visit a hospital in a life-threatening situation, the medical staff will not save your life if you are an organ donor. This is absolutely untrue – in fact, in order to donate your organs you have to be in a hospital, on a ventilator, and pronounced brain dead. Life-saving efforts must be performed before the donor program is notified. Even then, the transplant team is not informed until your family has given explicit permission. If the patient becomes brain dead, more than one diagnosis and a wide variety of tests have to be performed before the opportunity to donate is even presented. Once it is time for donation, the doctor will refer to your will or information from your family to follow your wishes when regarding which organs and tissues you want to donate.

Myth #3: Becoming a donor will cost my family money.
No one wants to leave their family behind with financial obligations to worry about. It is a common misconception that the family of the deceased will have to pay for their organ donation. The truth is the donor’s family is not responsible for any costs associated with the removal and processing of any organs and tissues.

Myth #4: The donor list isn’t fair – rich or famous people will receive organs first.
The social status of a person on the waiting list for a transplant is never considered when an organ becomes available. Instead, the length of time a person waits for an organ or tissue transplant is based on blood type, how long they have already spent on the waiting list, the severity of their illness, and a variety of other medical considerations. Age, gender, race, and level of wealth are never responsible for someone receiving a transplant.

Myth #5: I’ll have to have a closed casket funeral if I donate.
Having an open casket funeral is an important part of the grieving process for many people. A common misconception is that becoming an organ donor will leave you disfigured and you will not be able to have an open casket. When doctors remove the organs, they do so surgically. The operation is mindful of the donor and will not hinder the ability to have an open casket.

Baptist Memorial Health Care has provided organ donations to a variety of patients. Our transplant program has performed hundreds of heart transplants over the years. You can find out more about our transplant program, here.