Organ donation: Don't let these myths confuse you
Unsure about donating organs for transplant? Don't let rumors stand in your way of saving lives. It can be hard to think about what's going to happen to your body after you die, let alone donating your organs and tissue. But being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaver. Understanding organ donation can make you feel better about your choice. If you've delayed your decision to be a donor because of possibly inaccurate information, here are answers to some common organ donation myths and concerns.
Myth No. 1. If I agree to donate my organs, my doctor or the emergency room staff won't work as hard to save my life. They'll remove my organs as soon as possible to save somebody else.
Reality. When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus their priority of saving your life — not somebody else's. The doctor in charge of your care has nothing to do with transplantation.Besides, Organ donation can only be considered after brain death occurs.
Myth No. 2. Maybe I won't really be dead when they sign my death certificate. It'll be too late for me if they've taken my organs for transplantation. I might have otherwise recovered.
Reality. Although it's a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don't start to wiggle a toe after they're declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests to determine that they are truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.
Myth No. 3. Organ donation is against my religion.
Reality. Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions. This includes Hinduism, Sikkhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.
Myth No. 4. I'm under age 18. I'm too young to make this decision.
Reality. That's true, in a legal sense. But your parents can authorize this decision. You can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it's what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.
Myth No. 5. Organ and tissue donation will disfigure my body.
Reality. Organ and tissue donation doesn't disfigure the body. The donor's body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For eye donation, an artificial eye is inserted, the lids are closed, and no one can tell any difference. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor's back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back, no one can see any difference.
Myth No. 6. I'm too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.
Reality. There's no defined cutoff age for donating organs. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.
Myth No. 7. I'm not in the greatest health, and my eyesight is poor. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.
Reality. Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.
Myth No. 8. As a Hindu, if I donate organs, I will be be born without them in my next birth.
Reality. This is not true. When a Hindu is cremated, the entire body is consigned to flames and destroyed by fire. The only element not destroyed is the soul. The physical body does not survive death anyway, so the organs hold no relevance in rebirth as they are destructible. It is the everlasting soul that is reborn.
Myth No. 9. Rich, famous and powerful people always seem to move to the front of the line when they need a donor organ. There's no way to ensure that my organs will go to those who've waited the longest or are the neediest.
Reality. The rich and famous aren't given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. In fact, what really counts is the severity of illness, time spent waiting, blood type and other important medical information. The organ allocation system is blind to wealth or social status. Factors such as race, gender, age, income, celebrity status are never considered when determining organ recipients.
Myth No. 10. My family will be charged if I donate my organs.
Reality. The organ donor's family is never charged for donating. The family is charged for the cost of all final efforts to save your life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.