4 Organ Donor Myths
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Over 87,000 people today are on the U.S. national organ
list. Each day, about 17 people die while waiting for an organ transplant. Most
people in the U.S. approve of organ donation, but only about half of people
actually agree to allow the donation of a loved one's organs when asked to do
Most people would happily accept an organ from another
individual if it could save their life or end their own suffering, yet many are
reluctant to be donors. Why the discrepancy? The official U.S. Government web
site for organ and tissue donation and transplantation (maintained by the Health
Resources and Services
Administration) explains that myths concerning organ donation often spark
unfounded fears about organ donation.
Let's look at some of the myths about organ donation:
- "Doctors may not try as hard to save me if they know I am a donor." Absolutely untrue - After
doctors have exhausted all possible means of saving a life, and death has
either already occurred or is imminent, only then is the transplant Between Friends: Living
Donors team called in. Transplant doctors do not assist doctors in making
decisions about treatment. Expressing your wishes to be an organ donor will
never influence the quality or extent of your medical treatment.
- "Organ transplants are
preferentially given to rich or famous people, or given preferentially to
people of a specific race." Again, false. Donated organs are matched by
blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time,
and geographic location.
- "There are too many financial issues involved with
organ donation." Incorrect - your family or estate will not be charged for any
costs related to the donation. Likewise, organs are never sold. U.S. Federal law
prohibits the purchasing or selling of organs.
- "Organ donation results in
disfigurement of the body." This is false since organ removal is essentially a
surgical procedure performed in an operating room. Just as with any surgery, all
incisions are closed and repaired. It's still possible to have an open casket
funeral if this is of concern to you.
If these or other fears have kept you from signing an
organ donor card, take the time to review the information on the U.S. government
Web site for organ and tissue donation (www.organdonor.gov). You can print out a
donor card today from the Web site if you choose. Remember that even if you sign
a donor card it is essential that your family know your wishes, since your family may be asked to
sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur.
For additional information, please read the following articles:
Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2006