Common myths about organ donation and transplant are debunked by the Mayo Clinic
Myth. If I agree to donate my organs, my doctor or the emergency room staff won't work as hard to save my life. They'll remove my organs as soon as possible to save somebody else.
Reality. When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life -- not somebody else's. You'll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular emergency. The doctor in charge of your care has nothing to do with transplantation.
Myth. Maybe I won't really be dead when they sign my death certificate. It'll be too late for me if they've taken my organs for transplantation. I might have otherwise recovered.
Reality. Although it's a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don't start to wiggle a toe after they're declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests to determine that they are truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.
Myth. My family will be charged for donating a loved one's organs.
Reality. The organ donor's family is never charged for donating. Your family is charged for the cost of all final efforts to save your loved one's life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient. If you receive a bill for what you believe are costs related to organ donation, talk to the billing department of the hospital. You may have misunderstood the charges, or the costs may have been misdirected. Funeral expenses are still the responsibility of the donor's family.
Myth. Rich, famous and powerful people always seem to move to the front of the line when they need a donor organ. There's no way to ensure that my organs will go to those who've waited the longest or are the neediest.
Reality. The rich and famous aren't given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. In fact, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization responsible for maintaining the national organ transplant network, subjects all celebrity transplants to an internal audit to make sure the organ allocation was appropriate. Remember, too, that it would be unfair to deny someone a transplant simply because he or she is a celebrity.
Myth. I want my loved one to have an open-casket funeral. That can't happen if his or her organs or tissues have been donated.
Reality. Like an autopsy, organ and tissue donation doesn't interfere with having an open-casket funeral. If organs are taken, the body is stitched up as if the person were alive and had undergone surgery. The body is clothed for burial, so the stitches aren't visible. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor's back, and because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference. For eye donation, an artificial eye is inserted, the lids are closed, and again, no one can tell any difference. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. The body is stitched up and clothed, so no one can see any difference.
Myth. I'm too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.
Reality. There's no defined cutoff age for donating organs. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.
Myth. I'm not in the greatest health, and my eyesight is poor. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.
Reality. Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.
Myth. Organ donation is against my religion.
Reality. Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most larger religious denominations in the United States. This includes Catholicism, Protestantism and most branches of Judaism. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.
Who gets a heart?
The average national waiting time for a heart is 230 days. People waiting for a heart transplant are assigned a status code, which indicates how urgently they need a heart. Because thoracic organs such as the heart and lungs can only survive outside the body for four to six hours they are given first to people who live near the place where the donor is hospitalized.