Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list in the United States and it’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 people waiting for a donation. But despite such high demand, only 60% of American adults are registered organ donors.
What makes so many people hesitant to register as organ donors? There are a few reasons. Some don’t realize just how big of an impact their donation can make. Others have misconceptions based on myths they’ve heard about the organ donation process.
Knowing the facts about organ donation can help dispel these myths and make it easier for you to make this decision that could save as many as eight lives, and — if you choose to donate your tissue — potentially help more than 75 people.
Emory Transplant Center provides the facts behind the myths.
Myth: My Doctors Won’t Work as Hard to Save My Life If They Know I Am an Organ Donor
Fact: Organ donors receive the same medical care as everyone else. No matter what health situation you may be facing, your doctors, nurses and surgeons are committed to doing everything they can to improve your life and, if necessary, save your life. They hold this unwavering commitment for every patient, regardless of whether they are an organ donor or not.
You can be assured that organ donation only happens after all lifesaving options have failed. Whether or not you or your loved ones will donate organs is a conversation that takes place only after all lifesaving options have failed.
Myth: My Family Will Be Charged for My Organ Donation
Fact: Organ donation is free — it costs nothing. If you register to be an organ donor, there will be no charges to your family or your estate. Locally, LifeLink of Georgia assumes all expenses related to organ and tissue recovery.
Myth: My Organs Will Go to Waste
Fact: One organ donor can save as many as eight lives. Heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerve, and heart valves are life-saving donations that can improve the health and wellness of someone else and give them a second chance at life. On rare occasions, some organs will deteriorate while being transported and may not be suitable for transplants.
Myth: Only Organs Can Be Donated
Fact: You can donate organs and tissue. Thanks to advances in medicine and technology, the list of what you can donate continues to grow. It isn’t limited to organs. It now includes:
- Blood and platelets
- Blood stem cells and cord blood
- Bone marrow
- Corneas (the clear part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil)
- Organs including the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas
- Tissues, including bones, cartilage, heart valves, ligaments, the middle ear, the skin, tendons and veins
Most recently, faces and hands have been approved for transplants.
Myth: Organ Donation Only Happens After You Die
Fact: You can make a living donation now. Some organs (or parts of organs) can be donated by healthy people to help save the life of someone in need. A living donor must be at least 18 years of age and in good physical and mental health. Transplant programs like Emory’s Living Donor Kidney Program and Living Donor Liver Program work with living donors to complete a full evaluation that will protect the health and safety of both the donor and the recipient.
Organs that are eligible for living donation include:
- A portion of the liver, intestine or pancreas
- One kidney
- One lung
Myth: I’m Too Old (or Young) To Donate
Fact: Anyone, at any age, can donate. That’s because, when it comes to organ donations, the health of your organs is more important than your age. People of all ages are waiting for transplants, and senior citizens and newborns have been organ donors.
Everyone 18 and older can register and choose exactly what they wish to donate. And many states allow people under 18 to register as organ donors, although their families will make the final decision if they pass away before turning 18.
Myth: My Family Can Override My Organ Donation
Fact: Registering as an organ donor is legally binding. If you are 18 years of age or older, your family will not be able to reverse your decision after you die.
By registering as an organ donor, you may be making one aspect of your death easier on your family. Organ donors are frequently people who die suddenly and unexpectedly, and their deaths are times of intense difficulty for their families and loved ones. Making the decision to become an organ donor and letting your family know about your choice relieves them of the burden of making such an important decision during a time of sorrow and grief.
Myth: I Should Wait and Register for Organ Donation the Next Time I’m at DDS
Fact: You can join the organ donation registry right now. While the Georgia Department of Driver Services facilitates organ donation when you get or renew your driver’s license, you can register for organ donation at any time by visiting Donate Life Georgia.
About Emory Transplant Center
Emory Transplant Center is a leader in clinical excellence and in pioneering new transplant therapies. We offer cutting-edge technology and superior outcomes in heart transplant, kidney transplant, liver transplant, lung transplant, and pancreas transplant.
Our patients come from all over the nation for our high level of expertise and proven patient outcomes. We are proud to be ranked among the top 20 transplant programs in the nation and have performed more than 10,000 transplants to date — making us a leading national program.