7 myths about organ donation you should stop believing

iStockIndividuals over the age of 18 can register to be an organ donor.
  • There are a lot of myths about donating organs that aren’t true.
  • You do not have to be within a certain age range to be an organ donor.
  • Organ donors can be living or deceased.

Organ donation can have a powerful impact on the lives of others – a single organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people. And there’s always a need for individuals who are able and willing to become organ donors. According to the US Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation, as of 2017, over 114,000 individuals were on the organ transplant waiting list in the US alone.

Here are a few of the most common myths about organ donation that aren’t true.

MYTH: If you’re a registered organ donor, doctors won’t work as hard to save your life

Being a registered organ donor has no impact on how hard doctors will work to save your life.

“If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Your doctors will not take into consideration whether or not you have registered to be an organ donor,” transplant nephrologist Dr. David Klassen told INSIDER on behalf of the American Kidney Fund.

MYTH: People can only donate organs after they have died

Checkup doctor hospitaliStockThere are requirements that potential living donors must meet in order to donate their organs.

Although many organ donations occur after a donor has died, organ donors can be deceased or living. Living donors are potentially able to donate a few different organs including one of their two kidneys, a lung or part of a lung, part of their pancreas, or part of their intestines.

In order to become a living donor, individuals must be evaluated at a donation center where a medical professional will check their physical, psychological, and emotional health. A potential donor must also able to function without the organ or part of an organ that they are planning to donate.

In order to start the process of possibly becoming a living donor, individuals can reach out to their local transplant centres or living donor coordinators.

MYTH: Individuals have to be within a certain age range to be an organ donor

When it comes to becoming an organ donor, your health is more important than your age. “People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated,” said Dr. Klassen.


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MYTH: Those with pre-existing medical conditions can’t be organ donors

Surgery surgical toolsiStockIndividuals with a systemic infection cannot be organ donors.

Being an organ donor is possible even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Although there are some conditions that can make you unable to donate your organs, like an active cancer or a systemic infection (an infection in one’s bloodstream), whether or not you are eligible to be a donor is determined on an individual basis.

“At the time of death, the appropriate medical professionals will review your medical and social histories to determine whether or not you can be a donor,” said Dr. Klassen.

MYTH: Organ donors can’t have an open-casket funeral

“When a patient becomes a donor, the transplant surgeons work diligently to ensure that any surgical incisions used to procure the organs are hidden beneath the clothing line,” Diane Jenks, registered nurse and assistant professor at Husson University’s School of Nursing, told INSIDER.

“If the patient is also a bone or tissue donor, the transplant team works to reconstruct the affected limb with a piece of dowel so that the donor doesn’t appear to be missing anything,” she added.

MYTH: A person who is HIV-positive can’t be an organ donor

In the US, individuals who are HIV-positive can donate their organs to recipients that are also HIV-positive, as per the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act that was passed in 2015.

MYTH: If an individual donates their organs after their death, it will cost their family or estate

“Your donation is a gift. There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation,” Dr. Kathy Fitting, medical director at Donor Alliance, told INSIDER. “Recovery organisations assume all costs associated with recovering and processing organs and tissues for transplant once death has been declared and authorization is confirmed through the donor registry, or from the family in lieu of registration.”

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