Busting the Myths Surrounding Organ Donations

Posted 09/21/2016 | By HealthCorps

Last month we featured Organ Donation: Giving the Gift of Life. Hopefully you were inspired to sign up as an organ donor. If you’re still reticent about becoming an organ donor, it is likely due to some misconceptions you have or misinformation you may have heard. Let’s bust the myths about organ donation:

If I designate myself as an organ donor, and then I’m in a terrible accident, the doctors won’t try to save my life

False. Doctors, nurses and paramedics are trained to do everything they can to save your life regardless of your donor status. Only if you are on a ventilator and have been pronounced brain dead, will your donor status be considered. The chain of events involved in arranging for the organ donation is only started when all life-saving efforts have failed.

Doctors can remove my organs before I have passed away, If I’m a designated donor

False. Brain death designation is a medically, legal and morally accepted determination of death. It requires more than one professional rendering the diagnosis of brain death, and it requires a series of tests performed over a period of time before the donor’s family is presented with the opportunity to donate organs.

You don’t need me as an organ donor because organs can be purchased or sold on the black market

False. These types of beliefs are harmful urban legends. Organ donation involves very complex communications and arrangements. You have to have highly trained medical professionals involved, an extensive process of matching donors to recipients, a modern medical facility available that meets transplant surgery standards, and the support necessary to preserve and transfer organs safely. Buying and selling organs and tissues is also illegal as part of the National Organ Transplant Act.

I’m too old to donate an organ or tissue.

False. There’s actually no set age for organ and tissue donation. Clinical professionals will evaluate your medical history and current physical condition at the time of death on a case-by-case basis to decide if you are a medically suitable donor. You can register as a donor at any age.

I have ongoing medical issues so there’s no way I can be a donor

False. As previously discussed, the medical teams involved in organ donation will assess your health and well-being, past medical history and other factors and determine if your organs and tissue can be used. Assume that you can be a donor and leave the complicated decision-making to the professionals.

Even if I only designate certain organs or tissue to be donated, all my organs will be taken

False. You can specify which organs and tissue you want to donate in your will, and also let your family know. Family members are always consulted before the organ donation process begins. Your intent will be honored.

My family will be charged fees if I donate an organ

False. No fees will be charged to your estate or your family.

Being an organ donor means my body will be disfigured in order to procure the organs

False. All organs and tissue will be obtained through surgical means, similar to other types of surgery. Doctors will be very respectful of your body, and leave your body intact. You will be able to have a normal open casket ceremony If that is what you have arranged.


I won’t be able to be an anonymous donor

False. If your choice is to remain anonymous, that choice will be honored. You can convey your wishes to your family so they are clear on the specifics.

A recent story in the news highlighted a family that had donated a heart from a father killed tragically during a robbery, to another ailing man. The daughter of the donor recently got married and reached out to the recipient with the hopeful request that he walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. She felt it was a way to have her father’s beating heart present, and the recipient was delighted to comply. It was one of the most heart-warming stories to come out of the donor program.

A young child was recently the recipient of a bilateral hand transplant. His life will be forever changed thanks to the amazing donation that another family made.

Don’t let any myths or urban legends interfere with becoming an organ donor!!

Sources: Mayo Clinic

Gift of Life Donor Program
American Transplant Foundation

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