Fact: By the end of this day, 17 Americans will die waiting for an organ transplant.
They’re among the 107,000 children, women and men currently standing by on the national transplant waiting list. By year’s end, only 39,000 will get an organ.
Someone you know may be among those who don’t. But you can help by giving an organ—or simply sharing the truth about organ donations.
First, let’s correct some widely spread myths that cost lives:
Fiction: They don’t need my donation.
Fact: A single person can save eight people with life-saving organs they bequeath— not just two kidneys, but also two lungs, a heart, liver, pancreas and intestines.
Fiction: You have to die to give a body part.
Fact: Two of five donors give while alive. Your body can fully function if you donate one of your two kidneys or part of your lungs, pancreas or colon. If you give one lobe of your liver, the liver will regrow in you and your recipient, often returning to full function within a month.
Fiction: Size matters.
Fact: Just a small part of your body’s largest organ—skin—could help a burn victim or cancer patient. Also, consider donating smaller body organs like corneas and vessels.
Fiction: In an emergency, the hospital won’t save my life if they realize I’m a donor.
Fact: Medical teams will do everything they can to save your life. Period.
Fiction: Doctors will remove my organs if I’m comatose.
Fact: If you’re in a coma, health care providers hold out hope for a recovery. Only when your brain activity stops and you’re unable to breathe on your own are you then considered irreversibly brain-dead.
Fiction: My body will not look the same in order to harvest parts.
Fact: Bodies are respected and open casket funerals still are possible for donors of eyes, organs or tissue.
Fiction: The system prioritizes the wealthy to receive an organ.
Fact: Wealth and fame are irrelevant. A national database matches organs and recipients. What matters is blood type, time on the waiting list, geography and how advanced the disease is.
Fiction: You’ve got to go to the Department of Transportation to sign up.
Fact: To sign up as an organ donor, just go to the Donate Life Registry.
Fiction: For a live donation, I cannot afford the cost of lost wages or childcare or eldercare.
Fact: The Living Organ Donation Reimbursement program subsidizes those costs, as well as travel and lodging. And your family will not be charged for after-death donations.
Fiction: My health makes me a poor candidate to give.
Fact: What matters is the state of your organs—not your age, ethnicity or sexual preferences. Even if you’ve had cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure, some of your body parts still may be viable to save lives. Medical tests at the time of death will rule what donations are possible.
Fiction: My organs could end up being sold elsewhere.
Fact: It’s against federal law to buy or sell body parts. Violators are punished with stiff fines or prison sentences.
During the time it took you to read this article—nine minutes—another person joined the transplant waiting list.
This article was clinically review by Dr. Zeinab Alawadi.