Organ Donation Myths and Misconceptions
The myths about organ donation are the stuff of tabloid newspapers and Hollywood script writers. Don’t let misinformation stand in the way of giving the gift of life.
Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. The doctors and nurses working to save your life are separate from doctors who perform organ transplants.
Myth: When you’re waiting for a transplant, your financial or celebrity status is as important as your medical status.
Fact: When you are on the transplant waiting list for a donor organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information. Your income and social status have no bearing when determining how organs are allocated.
Myth: Having “organ donor” noted on your driver’s license or carrying a donor card is all you have to do to become a donor.
Fact: It’s a good step, but you should also register with the New York Donate Life Registry. See the “Become a Donor” page for more information. When you register, you are giving legal consent to donate your organs. Currently, the “organ donor” designation on the drivers license is not connected to the Donate Life Registry. In all cases, you should inform your family or next-of-kin of your decision as they will be consulted in the event of your death.
Myth: Your history of medical illness means your organs or tissues are unfit for donation.
Fact: Even if you have a history of medical illness including such diseases as diabetes, hypertension and even cancer, your ability to donate organs or tissues will be determined at the time of death. So, if organ donation is important to you, make your wishes known and rest assured that the medical professionals will review your medical and social history to determine suitability.
Myth: You are too old to be a donor.
Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated. People in their 80s and 90s have successfully donated organs to help others.
Myth: If you agree to donate your organs, your family will be charged for the costs.
Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Hospital costs associated with the donor’s care after death has been declared are covered by Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.
Myth: Organ donation disfigures the body and changes the way it looks in a casket.
Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation. An open-casket viewing is possible following organ or tissue donation.
Myth: Your religion prohibits organ donation.
Fact: All major organized religions approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it an act of charity.
Myth: There is real danger of being heavily drugged, then waking to find you have had one kidney (or both) removed for a black market transplant.
Fact: This tale has been widely circulated over the Internet. There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the U.S. While the tale may sound credible, it has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation. Many people who hear the myth probably dismiss it, but it is possible that some believe it and decide against organ donation out of needless fear.
Myth: Some people have regained consciousness or lived after being declared brain dead.
Fact: A brain dead person cannot regain consciousness. Someone who is brain dead is dead. There have been instances reported in which patients who have been in comas have regained consciousness. In some of the cases, media have reported that the patient was brain dead or the family has reported that their loved one was brain dead. In these intances the patients were not brain dead but were likely in some form or coma or persistent vegetative state. Brain dead patients cannot recover.