Organ donation: Sorting myths from facts

donate life month
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: DAVID CHRISOM/BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Every April, the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children’s Hospital honors Donate Life Month by raising awareness and celebrating lives saved because of organ donation. Part of raising awareness involves addressing the many myths and misconceptions that surround the process. For example, the majority of Americans support organ donation, but only 58 percent actually register to become an organ donor. That’s likely due in part to misinformation about organ donation. Here’s the truth behind six common myths.

No1

Myth: Doctors don’t work as hard to save patients who are organ donors because there is such a big need for donated organs.

Fact: A clinician’s first goal is always to care for patients. What’s more, organ donation is organized and orchestrated through an impartial third party called an organ procurement and transplantation network, so a patient’s medical team has no knowledge of or say in how their organs are allocated. Clinicians often don’t even know if their patient is an organ donor when they are treating them.

No2

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.

Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you are unsure about how you feel about organ donation on a spiritual level, a member of your clergy can discuss the process with you.

No3

Myth: If I donate organs I won’t be able to have an open-casket funeral when I die.

Fact: A careful surgical process is used in organ donation, leaving as few incisions as possible. If the person being buried is fully clothed, there will be no visible signs that they have donated organs.

No4

Myth: I’m too old or unhealthy for my organs to be useful.

Fact: There are no age limits on organs. In fact, some organs, like the liver, age remarkably well and can be of use for many years when transplanted into a younger person. In addition, very few medical conditions make your organs ineligible for donation. That determination can only be made when organs are examined after death.

No5

Myth: If I’m an organ donor, I’ll have to donate all my organs.

Fact: If you prefer to donate only certain organs, your wishes will be followed.

No6

Myth: Rich and famous people always get organs they need, but regular people aren’t so lucky.

Fact: People who are listed for an organ transplant are matched to available donor organs through a national system, based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, length of time on the waiting list and other factors. Income, celebrity, social status, gender and race do not influence this process.

See milestones made possible #becauseofadonor and register your decision to donate.