Misconceptions About Donation

We want to ensure your decision about organ donation is based on facts, so please read below for correct information behind some of the more common misconceptions about donation.

Common Misconceptions

If I sign a donor card, how can I be sure that I am really dead when organs and tissues are recovered? Will they do everything they can to save ME before recovering organs to save someone else?

Do famous or wealthy people get transplants quicker?

What if organ donation is against my religion?

If I am a donor, can I still have an open casket viewing at my funeral?

Is the donor's family charged for the donation process? Who pays for funeral arrangements?

Is there an age limit for donors? With my medical history, can I still donate?

Can organs be sold? Can I get paid for donating?

Is donation emotionally painful for donor families?

If I donate my loved one's organs, will the recipients know who I am?

Misconceptions - Setting the Record Straight

If I sign a donor card, how can I be sure that I am really dead when organs and tissues are recovered? Will they do everything they can to save ME before recovering organs to save someone else? If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, you will receive the same level of care regardless of whether or not you have indicated your wish to be an organ and tissue donor. The doctors treating you are not involved with transplant programs or possible recipients. This fact is both law and ethical medical practice. In brain death cases, a neurologist performs numerous tests to ensure the patient's brain has died and, therefore, has NO CHANCE of recovery. The first and foremost job of the healthcare professionals at any hospital is to do everything they can to try and save your life. It is only after all of these efforts have been exhausted that organ and tissue donation would even be considered.

Do famous or wealthy people get transplants quicker? NO! Organ recipients are chosen based upon several criteria including geographical location, length of time on the waiting list, medical urgency, and tissue matching. An individual's wealth and social status are never considered when determining who receives a lifesaving organ transplant. A national computerized matching system is used to place available organs with potential recipients. National policies govern the sharing of organs in the United States to ensure all patients fair and equal access to transplantation. "Who gets the organ" is not a problem of "equitability", it is an issue of "availability". If everyone donated, there would be enough organs for all transplant recipients - EVERYONE would receive life and that is the most equitable of all.

What if organ donation is against my religion? All major religions support organ and tissue donation and consider donation the greatest gift one can give. The donation of life is an act of human kindness in keeping with religious teachings. Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths support donation as an act of human benevolence. They believe that this is a gift of life to another person. The religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam believe that organ donation is a matter of individual conscience. If you have questions in this regard, we encourage you to consult with your religious leader.

If I am a donor, can I still have an open casket viewing at my funeral? In most cases, someone who is an organ and tissue donor can have a traditional funeral service with an open casket viewing. The donation operation is performed under surgical, sterile conditions in a hospital operating room and does not disfigure the body. Through the entire donation process the body is treated with care, respect, and dignity and it is fully reconstructed once organs and tissues are recovered.

Is the donor's family charged for the donation process? Who pays for funeral arrangements? Absolutely not! While the family will receive a hospital bill for any lifesaving efforts that took place for their family member, once death has been declared and either a signed donor document is found or the family consents to donation, all charges related to the donation process are billed to the organ and tissue recovery agency. The family will make the funeral arrangements in the usual fashion. In most cases, organ and/or tissue donation does not interrupt funeral arrangements. All costs related to donation are the responsibility of the organ & tissue recovery organization. All other costs associated with the funeral remain the responsibility of the family.

Is there an age limit for donors? With my medical history, can I still donate? Almost everyone, regardless of age, can donate something to help others. Donors can range in age from newborn to senior citizen. People of all ages and most medical histories can give a precious gift by becoming an organ and tissue donor. Careful tests are done prior to organs being recovered to ensure the donor has no infectious diseases that could put the recipient at risk. Complete medical screening and evaluation is done to ensure the organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation. If someone is waiting for an organ transplant and is only days from death, the age of the donor or the fact that an organ may not be perfect probably wouldn't matter. To date, the oldest organ donor was 93 years old.

Can organs be sold? Can I get paid for donating? No! It is against the law to buy or sell human organs and tissues in the United States. In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act which outlaws the buying and selling of human organs in the United States. By federal law, all organs recovered for transplant from deceased donors in this country are monitored and tightly controlled by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) making it illegal to retrieve or transplant human organs outside of the system. The intent of the law is to ensure equitable access to donor organs without any group or person having an unfair advantage.

Is donation emotionally painful for donor families? Some question the practice of asking a bereaved family about organ and tissue donation. If families are not given the opportunity to save lives, organ & tissue recovery organizations are denying them the hope of finding comfort in their sorrow. Many families say that discussing organ and tissue donation does not create stress. In fact, donation often eases their grief because of the knowledge that their personal tragedy gave new life to others. NOT KNOWING how their loved one felt about donation makes discussing it difficult. That is why it is so important to register your decision AND talk to your family TODAY about donating life. Many more families today are raising the issue of donation themselves because they are aware of their loved one's wishes and of the life-saving and life-enhancing value of organ and tissue donation.

If I donate my loved one's organs, will the recipients know who I am? The identity of all parties is kept confidential at first and until both parties agree to release identifying information to the other. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive such information as age, sex and state of residence. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of death, and the donor family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive feedback on how the health and lives of the recipients have improved. The donation agencies facilitate correspondence and meetings initiated by either the donor family or the recipient, but only if both parties agree to it.