There are currently 112,607 people awaiting an organ transplant. Despite the lives that organ donation can save, some questions and concerns prevent individuals from registering as a potential organ donor. Understandably, most people are a bit uneasy thinking about what will happen to their bodies after they pass on, and inaccurate information about the organ donor process can further deter individuals who might otherwise consider becoming an organ donor. To set the record straight on a few common concerns and misconceptions, here are some facts that may make the decision easier.
Question: What if I’m not really dead when they sign my death certificate? How can I be sure my organs won’t be harvested before I’m dead?
Answer: Despite tabloid articles to the contrary, people don’t tend to come back to life after being pronounced dead. Not only that, but those who are registered to be organ donors receive increased testing to ensure they’re truly dead than those who aren’t registered donors.
Question: If I agree to be an organ donor, will I still receive the best possible medical care?
Answer: The quality of care you receive is entirely unrelated to whether or not you are an organ donor. A doctor’s primary focus is on saving your life; it’s part of the Hippocratic Oath they take to become doctors. You will receive the best possible care regardless of your potential donor status.
Question: Aren’t I too young/old to be an organ donor?
Answer: Individuals of all ages need donor organs; young patients often require organs that are smaller than an adult organ, so even young donors are needed. Individuals from newborn on up have successfully provided donor organs. In most states, you can register to be an organ donor prior to the age of 18; however, as is the case with all potential organ donors under 18, the parents or legal guardians would make the final determination. There is no upper age limit for organ donation.
Question: If I register as an organ donor, will I ever be able to change my mind?
Answer: Yes, you can choose what organs you wish to donate and change your mind at any time.
Question: If I am an organ donor, will my family still be able to have an open-casket funeral? Won’t organ donation disfigure my body?
Answer: Organ transplants are performed by medical professionals; your body will be treated with care and respect. There won’t be any visible signs of organ donation that would prevent you from having an open casket at the funeral.
Hopefully, knowing these facts will help to make your decision about whether to become an organ donor easier. If you have further questions or would like to learn more about organ transplants and donation, you can visit the U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation website at www.organdonor.gov or the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) website at https://unos.org/.