7 Myths About Organ Donation
Apr 06, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Living or deceased, organ donation is one of the most impactful things you can ever do, and there are patients who need you today.
Many people are confused or have questions about what it actually means to be an organ donor.
Registered Nurse Ellen Shukhman, clinical transplant coordinator in Cedars-Sinai's Kidney Living Donor Program, debunks seven common myths about organ donation.
"You'll be giving the gift of life. What a legacy to leave behind."
Myth #1: There are enough organs for those who need them
Across the U.S., more than 112,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Someone is added to the waitlist every 10 minutes, and 22 patients die every day because the organ they needed wasn't donated in time.
Wait times are a big problem, says Ellen.
"The typical wait is 8-11 years for a deceased donor transplant."
Myth #2: Only the deceased can donate organs
Living donors are crucial.
The popularity of living-organ donation—particularly for kidneys—has increased a lot in recent years, as people become more aware of what a difference it makes.
"A kidney from a deceased donor may last 10-12 years," says Ellen. "A living-donor organ can last 10-20 years or even more."
A transplantation from a living donor can also be planned and scheduled, so the patient getting the organ can have family around to help.
Myth #3: Many religions forbid organ donation
"Most religions encourage organ donation as an act of love and compassion," says Ellen. "We work with leaders of various religious communities, and they are very much on board. Giving an organ means giving life, and that's deeply meaningful for people of faith."
Myth #4: You can't have an open casket if you've been an organ donor
Open casket funerals can take place after organ, eye and tissue donations. Funeral arrangements will continue as planned.
"We treat the body with great care and respect through the donation process," says Ellen, emphasizing that organs are not viewed as commodities, but as precious gifts.
Myth #5: Doctors won't try as hard to save my life if I am an organ donor
"In healthcare, we are all driven by one principle: Do no harm," says Ellen. "Your life always comes first. Cedars-Sinai doctors are not only world-class experts, they are ethical and compassionate."
Myth #6: Kidney donors have to be family members
Many donors are altruistic. Doctors match the donor to the patient using various criteria, including blood type. Research keeps bringing new breakthroughs to improve organ transplantation and manage possible problems, such as blood-type compatibility.
Myth #7: Only young and healthy people can be donors
"For kidneys, living donors range from age 18 to 80," says Ellen. "What matters is that you're in good physical and emotional health."
If you're donating organs upon your death, you can often do that even if you had health problems.
"Your medical condition will determine which organs you can give."
As for deceased donation, Ellen hopes everyone will opt in. "You'll be giving the gift of life," she says. "What a legacy to leave behind."