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4 Common Myths About Organ Donation Explained

In the U.S. alone, there are more than 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. To bring that number closer to home, there are more than 2,000 people waiting in Wisconsin.

These people could be your neighbors, co-workers, family members, or friends. If you don’t know someone waiting for a transplant now, there’s a chance you might someday.

For most people, they’re presented the opportunity to become an organ donor when they renew their driver’s license. In most states, the person behind the counter asks whether or not you want to check the box to donate, in the event of death, your kidney, heart, liver, lungs, corneas, skin, and more.

It’s important to understand that making the decision to donate your organs is a very personal one. But when you make it, don’t make it based on information that’s not true.

The most common myths about organ donation

Below is a list of the most common myths people have about being an organ donor. To make sure you have accurate information when you make your decision, here’s what you need to know about the myths:

1. I might be declared dead before I really am if they know I’m an organ donor

Your doctor’s number one priority is to save your life. Before any person is declared dead, a series of tests are performed to make sure, and if there’s any doubt, they’ll continue working hard to keep you alive.

2. My medical care will be affected if I choose to be an organ donor

When you seek medical help, your doctor is committed to your treatment — not somebody else's. You'll be seen by a doctor whose specialty matches your condition and most likely has nothing to do with any transplants using your organs.

3. If I sign up for organ donation, my organs might be sold

This is a popular theme in TV and movies, but it’s not true. It’s completely illegal to sell human organs in the U.S. The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 was created to ensure people’s organ donations get used ethically and given to those most in need.

When a person is in need of an organ – it doesn't matter if they’re rich or famous – they’re evaluated and put on the waiting list. From there, they get matched to organs based on their blood and tissue type, need, time on the waiting list, and location.

4. I’m too old to donate my organs

Medical measures of a person’s tissue health, not their age, determine whether or not organs are suitable for transplantation. And even if you have existing medical conditions, this may not affect any or all of your organs and tissue.

There’s no cut-off age for donating organs. Successful transplants have been completed using organs from donors in their 80's.

On the flip side, people under the age of 18 can donate too, if their parents authorize their decision. So if you’re under the age of 18 and want to be donor, have a family discussion about it.

Making the decision to be an organ donor

Each day, an average of 21 people die because they weren't able to get the organ they needed to survive. And every 10 minutes another person’s name is added to the organ transplant list. Giving the gift of life to others when you die creates a legacy of generosity.

Learn more about how you can become an organ donor in your state here.

Meet the Author

Ajay Sahajpal, MD is a board-certified transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon specializing in liver, kidney, and pancreas transplants and complex cancer surgery at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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