Understanding Organ Donation: Deciding to Give the Gift of Life

organ donation monthApril serves as National Donate Life month – raising awareness around organ donation and celebrating those who have given the precious gift of life to another. Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting a life saving transplant. They are in need of organs, tissue, and bone marrow which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving recipients a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation. The Emory Transplant Center has compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision to become an organ donor. Of note, the cons referenced below may in fact not be cons at all, but rather based on misconceptions.

Pros:

  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. With more than 115,000 men, women and children awaiting organ transplant in the U.S., by registering to become an organ donor you can help save lives.
  • For the transplant recipient, it is a second chance at life. For some, an organ transplant means no longer having to be dependent on costly routine treatments to survive. It allows many recipients to return to a normal lifestyle.
  • For the family of the deceased donor, they feel a sense of goodness that came from a tragedy – that if the organs are transplanted into a young, deserving person, then their loss was not in vain. Donor families take some consolation in knowing that some part of their loved one continues in life.
  • Living Donation – It is possible to donate organs while you are still alive. One can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as bone marrow, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is a relative or a close friend who donates, but there are others who choose to donate to a complete stranger.

Cons (Misconceptions):

  • Families might be confused by the fact that donor bodies are often kept on life support while the tissues are removed. Surgeons do not remove any tissues unless the person is brain dead, but they sometimes put the body on a ventilator to keep the heart pumping fresh blood into the tissues to keep them alive long enough to harvest. This is not the same as life, but there is a moment when the ventilator is removed and the heart stops.
  • Many individuals incorrectly believe that if they donate organs that they or their family will then need to fund the cost of the operation used to remove the organ. This is not the case as costs actually fall to the recipient.
  • Another “con” might be that the donor does not usually get to choose who the organs go to, and perhaps an organ will go to someone of a different faith, political viewpoint or temperament than the donor. The donor has to believe that all life is sacred and that anyone who receives the “ultimate gift” of a donor organ will be grateful and be imbued with a sense of gratitude and a desire to pay it forward.

To learn more about organ donation, join Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Transplant Center for a live chat on Tuesday, April 28th from Noon – 1PM. She will answer all of your questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She will also discuss paired donor exchange – what it is, how it works and how paired donor exchange is helping patients get a second chance at life. Register for the chat here.
To become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life of Georgia.

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