5 organ donation myths debunked

5 organ donation myths debunked

If you had the power to save a life or drastically improve the life of someone else, would you?

According to the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, 120,000 men, women and children are waiting for critical organ transplants. In Illinois, more than 5,000 people are on the list. A single donor can save or drastically improve the lives of 25 people.

Many of us have preconceived notions surrounding the topic of organ donation. It’s a subject that invokes a cringe most often based on what we don’t know rather than reality.

Myth: People who are wealthy or famous get moved to the top of the waiting lists while everyone else waits longer for a transplant.

Reality: The fact is, celebrity status and wealth have no bearing when determining how quickly one receives an organ donation. What does matter is blood type, how severe the condition, length of time on the waiting list and urgency of need. When celebrities receive a transplant, it is often highly publicized, giving the impression that they are served as priority.

Myth: If I’m involved in an accident and the hospital finds out I want to be a donor, the quality of my medical care could be compromised.

Reality: Hospital physicians and nurses have a single goal, and that is to do everything within their power to save your life.

Raeann Fuller is a nurse and manager of intensive care at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. She leads the organ and tissue program and has compassionately sat beside families over the years as they consider this sensitive subject. “It is our obligation and mission to do absolutely everything we can from a medical care perspective until nothing else can be done.”

Organ donation is not an option until all life-saving efforts have failed and brain death has been declared. The clinical professionals within the hospital are completely separate from the transplant team involved in organ and tissue donation.

Myth: You can still wake up once you are determined brain dead.

Reality: According to the National Kidney Foundation, brain death is “the complete stopping of all brain function and cannot be reversed.” A determination of brain death is very different from a coma, which is a prolonged state of unconsciousness. It is possible to recover from a coma.

Myth: I don’t need to register to be a donor because it’s already in my will.

Reality: By the time the family reads your will, it may be too late. Most viable organ donation occurs within 36 hours after death. To reduce confusion and stress on the family, register to become an organ and tissue donor so your wishes will be honored.

“When it comes to organ donation, there is no wrong answer,” says Fuller. “At the end of the day, a family needs to start that journey toward healthy grief. They don’t always decide to go the route of donation, but when they do, it can be a beautiful legacy to your loved one.”

Myth: If you become an organ donor, you cannot have an open-casket funeral.

Reality: Since it is customary to be fully clothed for burial, you can have an open casket if that is your wish. Organ and tissue donation is accomplished through careful and precise surgical methods. Tremendous effort is made to have minimal disfiguration. The surgery is efficient and does not typically delay funeral plans.

For more information on organ donation or to become an organ donor, click here.

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  1. Great article! I hope it encourages more people to become donors. Thank you

  2. Sorry, I may be stubborn, but why should I declare myself to be more valuable dead than alive? Just seems counterintuitive to me.
    At least I am happy that organ donation is a CHOICE, I do have a choice.

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About the Author

LeeAnn Atwood
LeeAnn Atwood

LeeAnn Atwood, health enews contributor, is public affairs manager for nursing at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care.