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Debunking the Myths and Misconceptions of Organ Donation

One organ donor can save up to eight lives. Learn the facts about organ donation.

Heart recipient Roxanne Watson holding a photo of her donor, Michael. (Photo: LiveOnNY)

There are more than 113,000 Americans currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Every 10 minutes, another individual is added to the registry and approximately 20 people die each day while waiting for the organ they desperately need to survive. What’s more heartbreaking is that these deaths are avoidable.  There is a significant shortage of registered organ donors nationwide, and rampant myths and misconceptions are keeping many people from saying yes to organ donation. The overarching truth is that one of the greatest gifts an individual can give is life.

It’s time to debunk the barriers to becoming a registered organ donor with these five common myths followed by the truth:

Myth: Doctors won’t work as hard to save my life if I am an organ donor.

Truth: This is the myth we hear the most often, when in fact it could not be further from reality. All doctors take a Hippocratic oath to save lives and are deeply committed to their duty. Organ donation is only broached once it is crystal clear that nothing more can be done to save a patient’s life.

organ donation

Donation is handled by a completely different team than the doctors working to save your life. In most cases, the emergency team will not know that you are a registered organ donor because they do not have access to the registry.

Myth: I’m too old to be an organ donor or I’m not healthy enough to be an organ donor.

Truth: Many people choose not to register because they assume that their organs are too old and will not be useable. In many cases, this is simply not true. Advancing age does not often prevent donation. In fact, the oldest donor in history was a 93-year-old woman who donated her liver in New York. The recipient is alive and well because of her selfless gift.

Do not rule yourself out. Even with an illness, you may be able to be a lifesaving organ donor. Register and allow the doctors to decide if you’re able to donate when the time comes.

Myth: All donated organs go to rich and famous people.

Truth: The organ transplant waiting list is blind to celebrity and wealth. The system is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, and organs are matched with recipients based on things like blood type and other medical information. Race, income and celebrity are never factors in determining who gets an organ transplant.

Myth: If I’m an organ donor, I won’t be able to have a regular funeral.

Truth: Organ donation does not disfigure the body or delay funeral arrangements. When organs are recovered for transplant, it is done with deep respect for the person and with care for the body. It is similar to any other surgery that takes place, and medical teams work hard to ensure that families can have an open casket funeral.

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.

Truth: Most major religions support the principles of organ donation and transplantation. In fact, many consider the gift of life to be the greatest legacy a person can leave.

Choosing to be an organ donor means choosing to save a life and leave a lasting legacy. One person can save up to eight lives and enrich dozens more through tissue donation.  Taking a few seconds now to sign up can add many years to a person’s life down the road. To learn more about how you can register, visit LiveOnNY.org.

By Helen Irving, President & CEO- LiveOnNY
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