As many of you know, I’ve been working since February 28, 2011, to help my brother Kevin find a live kidney donor. He’s been on the transplant waiting list at Penn Transplant Institute for 3 years, to no avail. There simply aren’t enough cadaver donors in this country to meet the need.
While an overwhelming majority of Americans know about the concept of being an organ donor in death, only 30% of American’s know how to register as an organ donor. This makes me wonder if misconceptions are preventing people from registering. Perhaps I can dispel some of those myths!
1. “They’ll remove my organs before I’m actually dead” No organs are removed from a donor until a variety of tests, performed over time, confirm that the patient is brain dead with no hope of recovery.
2. “The recipient will end up knowing who I am” Donor information is kept private! Only with the surviving family’s approval, would the donor name ever be released to the recipient.
3. “If I’m critically injured in an accident, they won’t fight to save me because I’m a registered organ donor” The doctors working to save any patient in a hospital emergency room, are completely separate from the transplant team. In fact, the transplant team is unaware of incoming patients until such time as tests determine a patient to be brain dead and quite often, when the family informs the hospital that the patient is a registered organ donor.
4. “I don’t have to register as an organ donor, I’ve got it in my will”. By the time any will is usually read, it will be too late to donate any of your organs or tissues. That’s why its important not only to register with your state as an organ donor, but also to discuss it with your family so that they’ll know to honor your wishes at the time of your death.
5. “If I’m an organ donor in death, my body will be so disfigured my family won’t be able to have an open casket at my funeral”. Any surgery to remove organs is done respectfully, and does not preclude having an open casket.
6. “I’ve had many medical problems in my life, I’m sure my organs wouldn’t be suitable for donation”. Illness doesn’t necessarily exclude all organ or tissue donations. Each patient is evaluated at the time of death to determine the viability of any donation.
7. “My religion doesn’t approve of organ donation” Most recognized religions today accept and commend organ donation as a personal choice and as an gift of charity and compassion.
Whether or not you choose to be a registered organ donor is a profoundly personal decision. But know that in death, you could potentially save 8 people!
If you haven’t already, won’t you please register so that even in death, you can give the gift of life?