It’s one of the leading medical issues of our time: human donor organs are in extremely short supply, while nearly 20 Americans die daily waiting for a life-saving transplant. So, why aren’t more people giving the gift of life through organ donation?
In many cases, family members aren’t even aware of the potential donor’s decision, resulting in a lost opportunity. That’s why it’s imperative to have a conversation with your family and communicate your wishes. But misinformation is also largely to blame. Several myths about organ donation continue to confuse potential donors. “Rich and famous people get first dibs on donor organs” and “I can’t have an open-casket funeral if I donate my organs” are two such myths that are patently untrue. Here’s the truth behind some other common misconceptions:
“If I agree to donate my organs, doctors won’t try to save me in an emergency.”
In any situation, the medical team’s number one priority is to save your life. The physicians who care for you in an emergency are in no way involved with the doctors responsible for removing and transplanting organs. And the organ transplant team isn’t even contacted until death is officially declared and the patient’s family has agreed to the donation.
“If I donate, my healthy organs will probably go to a substance abuser.”
The national organ distribution system is designed to prevent donor organs from going to people who actively smoke, use alcohol, or abuse illegal drugs. Candidates seeking transplant are screened thoroughly and randomly tested for substance abuse. If pre-transplant tests consistently indicate such abuse, the candidate is taken off the transplant list.
“I can’t donate organs because of my medical history or age.”
Many diseases once thought to prohibit individuals from becoming organ donors are no longer considered barriers (for example, diabetes and hepatitis), and age limits are less important today.
“If I donate one of my kidneys, I won’t live as long.”
Recent studies show that a living kidney donor’s life expectancy is no shorter than anyone else’s. Living donors undergo extensive testing to make sure they are in good shape for a long, healthy life with just one kidney. In fact, those who pass such tests typically rank among the highest percentile of healthy people.
“My family will to have to pay if I donate my organs.”
The donor’s family (or their insurance company) is only responsible for paying for medical care up to the point of death. After death, any costs related to organ or tissue donation are covered, leaving no such charges to the donor’s estate or family.
Although organ donors contribute to more than 28,000 life-saving transplants each year, there clearly aren’t enough organs available for all of the 113,000 people currently on a waiting list. Would you be willing to donate? If so, please discuss your decision with your family, and register via your Indiana driver’s license or at www.donatelifeindiana.org.
Need one more fact to consider? One donor can save eight lives.