Dispelling myths about organ donation

MYTH: If I am in an accident and medical personnel find my driver’s license, they won’t try to save my life.

TRUTH: The number-one priority is to save every life. Paramedics, nurses and doctors will do EVERYTHING possible to save your life. CORE is only notified after all life-saving efforts have failed.

MYTH: There is no difference between being brain dead and being in a coma.

TRUTH: Brain death is pronounced when there is a lack of blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Brain death is the medical, legal and moral determination of death. To verify brain death, a series of tests are performed over a period of time and more than one diagnosis is required before the donor’s family is presented with the opportunity to donate. There is no recovery from brain death.

MYTH: My family will not be able to have an open casket at my funeral because organ and tissue donation means my body may be disfigured.

TRUTH: Organ and tissue donation will not interfere with traditional funeral arrangements such as an open casket. Doctors maintain the utmost respect for the donor and organs are removed in a routine operation similar to other types of surgeries.

MYTH: My religion does not support donation.

TRUTH: All major religions consider donation to be an individual decision, or support it and see it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.

MYTH: The rich and famous receive preferential treatment on the waiting list.

TRUTH: Financial and celebrity status do not determine who receives a transplant. A national computer network, maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) matches organs according to height, weight and blood type, followed by medical urgency and then time accrued on the waiting list. Age, race, gender, religious affiliation or financial status are not factors that determine who receives a transplant.

MYTH: I am too old to register to become an organ donor.

TRUTH: There is no set age limit for organ donation. Every potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of their death to determine which organs and tissues are suitable for donation.

MYTH: My organs aren’t of any value because of my medical illnesses.

TRUTH: Few illnesses or conditions prevent someone from being a donor. At the time of death, CORE reviews medical and social histories to determine suitability. Poor vision, cataracts and glaucoma do not eliminate someone’s ability to donate. The ability to donate is determined on a case-by-case basis. Although someone may not be able to donate blood, it does not always prevent the individual from donating organs and tissues.

MYTH: I cannot specify which organs I want to donate.

TRUTH: If necessary, you can specify which organs and tissues you wish to donate in your will.

MYTH: I do not need to tell my family that I would like to be a donor.

TRUTH: Discussing death can be uncomfortable for many, but talking to your family now takes the burden off of them at the time of your passing.

MYTH: If I do not register as an organ donor, my organs and tissues won’t be donated.

TRUTH: Without a donor designation, your legally authorized representative (usually a spouse or relative) will be offered the opportunity to donate. To ensure your wishes are fulfilled, place the designation on your license/state identification card, and talk to your family about your decision to donate.

MYTH: Families can override a donor’s wishes.

TRUTH: For individuals at least 18 years-old, a signed donor card or donor designation on the license are recognized as legally binding.

MYTH: Organs go to people who didn’t take care of theirs.

TRUTH: Organs go to people who were born with or developed diseases that have caused organ failure. Less than five percent of people awaiting transplant have destroyed their organ through substance abuse and they must achieve and sustain sobriety before they can be listed for transplant.

MYTH: My family will have to pay for costs related to my donation.

TRUTH: Donors and their families are not responsible for any costs related to donation. All costs are incurred by the organ procurement organization.

MYTH: Organs are bought and sold on the black market.

TRUTH: In alliance with the National Organ Transplant Act, the buying and selling of organs and tissue is illegal. Additionally, due to the complexity of organ transplantation, necessary involvement from highly trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for modern medical facilities, and the support required for transplantation, it would be impossible for organs to be bought or sold on the black market.

MYTH: The recipient will learn my identity.

TRUTH: Information about an organ donor is only released to the recipient if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient’s privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.