Myths of Organ Donation

Yesterday, I suggested a few myths of organ donation that might inspire a Hallowe’en costume. Here are a few more myths, drawn from the US National Kidney Foundation: http://kidneyla.org/top-10-myths-about-organ-donation/; and UHN: Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret, Toronto Rehab Hospitals: http://www.uhn.ca/corporate/News/Pages/organ_donation_myths_facts.aspx

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Myth: Wealthy people and celebrities are moved to the top of the list faster than “regular” people.

Fact: The organ allocation and distribution system is blind to wealth or social status. The length of time it takes to receive a transplant is governed by many factors, including blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and other medical criteria. Factors such as race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ.

Trillium Gift of Life Network keeps a list of everyone in Ontario who is waiting for an organ and determines who gets an available organ. The severity of a patient’s illness, blood and tissue type match, and other medical information determine who gets the organ first. If the medical urgency between two people is the same, the individual who’s been on the waiting list the longest will receive the organ.

Myth: Donation will mutilate my body.

Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix removal. Donation doesn’t disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket.

Myth: My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Fact: Donation costs nothing to the donor’s family or estate.

Myth: If I am in an accident and the hospital knows that I want to be a donor, the doctors will not try to save my life.

Fact: Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been legally declared. The medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team. The organ procurement organization (OPO) is not notified until all lifesaving efforts have failed and death has been determined. The OPO does not notify the transplant team until your family has consented to donation.

Myth: I am not the right age for donation.

Fact: Organs may be donated from newborns on up. The general age limit for tissue donation is 70. At the time of your death, the appropriate medical professionals will determine whether your organs are usable.

 Myth: My religion does not support donation.

Fact: All mainstream organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.

Myth: Only heart, liver and kidneys can be transplanted.

Fact: Needed organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue that can be donated include the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.

Myth: I have a history of medical illness. You would not want my organs or tissues.

Fact: At the time of death, the appropriate medical professionals will review your medical and social histories to determine whether or not you can be a donor. With recent advances in transplantation, many more people than ever before can be donors. It’s best to sign a donor card and tell your family your wishes.

 Myth: I don’t need to tell my family that I want to be a donor because I have it written in my will.

Fact: By the time your will is read, it will be too late to recover your organs. Telling your family now that you want to be an organ and tissue donor is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Myth: I’ve heard about a business traveler who is heavily drugged, then awakens to find he or she has had one kidney (or sometimes both) removed for a black market transplant.

Fact: This tale has been widely circulated over the Internet. There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the US or any other industrialized country. While the tale may sound credible, it has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation. Many people who hear the myth probably dismiss it, but it is possible that some believe it and decide against organ donation out of needless fear.

MYTH: If I decide to donate, I may not really be dead when they decide to remove my organs.

Fact: Almost all organ donors must be in a state called brain death, which is irreversible brain damage and loss of brain function, along with the cessation of breathing and other vital reflexes. People cannot recover from brain death. Brain death and comas are not the same—people can recover from comas. Moreover, the declaration of death of an organ donor is done without the involvement of the transplant team.

MYTH: Transplants don’t really work, so why bother?

Fact: Transplantation is one of modern medicine’s success stories. By donating your organs and tissues, you can save at least eight lives, and improve many more. Many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.

 

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