Uncovering Misperceptions about Organ Donation

Living Organ DonationDuring the month of April, we like to shine a light on organ donation to support and raise awareness about National Donate Life Month. Organ donation is giving the gift of life. Although it is a great concept, it is a concept that has a lot of misconceptions that affect donation decisions.

Did you know that 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor, but only 54% are registered?

We are here to breakdown organ donation misconceptions, list the pros and cons of donation, and answer your questions.

Misperceptions About Organ Donation

A recent survey developed by physicians and researchers at Emory University, and published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, on organ donation and transplantation found that misperceptions about the lifesaving process are the most common deterrents for donating organs.

Having concerns over receiving inadequate medical care after an illness or accident, if registered as an organ donor, is the number one deterrent. Other misperceptions include thinking that there is an increased cost for the donor family when donating organs, and the idea of a celebrity or famous person receiving higher priority of receiving an organ.

  • Being an organ donor means receiving poor medical care is a myth. Medical teams that are in charge of ill or injured patients are not part of a transplant team. Their care is solely focused on the ill or injured patient. A donation is only considered after all life-saving options have failed.
  • There is no cost to the donor family if a loved one’s organs are donated. In Georgia, LifeLink of GA assumes all expenses related to organ and tissue recovery.
  • Generally, the rules on receiving an organ vary by a patient’s medical urgency, blood, tissue and size match with the donor, and time on the waiting list. Factors such as celebrity status, income race or ethnicity play no role in the order of receiving an organ.

Pros and Cons of Organ Donation

Pros

  • One organ donor can save up to eight lives.
  • For a transplant recipient, this is a second chance at life.
  • For the family of the deceased donor, they can feel a sense of goodness that came from a tragedy.
  • You can donate organs while you are still alive. Living donations increases the existing organ supply.

Cons

  • Families might be confused by the fact that donor bodies are often kept on life support while the tissues are removed.
  • 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.

Your Organ Donation Questions Answered

We would like to thank our experts from the Emory Transplant Center for answering your questions.

What is a living donation?
Living people can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as blood, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is relatives who do living tissue donation. It is possible, however, to register for completely humanitarian reasons and give organs to a stranger.

What kind of organs are donated?
Hearts, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerves, and heart valves can be donated.

Can I choose my recipient?
Unfortunately, no (as seen above in the cons). 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.

How many people are in need of an organ?
Almost 120,000 are in need of an organ transplant and more than 5,400 are Georgia residents.

I have a medical condition. Am I still allowed to be a donor?
Yes, regardless of age or medical condition, anyone can join the donor registry.

If my blood type doesn’t match my recipient’s what are my options?
At Emory, we are involved with the National Kidney Registry (a paired donor exchange program). In a paired exchange, a donor will donate their kidney to another recipient in exchange for a compatible kidney for their loved one. This can occur on the same day. So while they didn’t walk away with your kidney, they received a kidney that was the best match donor possible.

How can I sign up to be a donor?
To register to be a donor, visit Donate Life Georgia.

To learn more about Emory Transplant Center and organ donation, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant or call  855-366-7989.

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