Many people have misconceptions about organ and tissue donation, which can discourage them from registering as organ donors. Each organ donor has the potential to save eight lives and improve the lives of 75 others. That’s why it’s important to dispel these myths. So here are 10 interesting facts about organ donation — some of which may surprise you.
Find out how to register to become an organ donor and get more information on organ donation.
1. You can donate organs and tissues while you’re alive.
Despite increasing public awareness, many people are still surprised to learn that you can donate certain organs and tissues while you’re alive. Living donors can go on to live a full, healthy life. UPMC has extensive expertise in performing living donor transplants, which help reduce the shortage of organs and allow patients to receive live-saving transplants sooner.
2. Elderly and chronically sick people can become organ donors.
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Neither advanced age nor a history of serious diseases automatically disqualifies you from becoming an organ donor. Medical professionals assess your condition at the time of your death to determine what tissues or organs may be viable to donate.
3. First responders and doctors work equally hard to save the lives of registered organ donors as they do nondonors in a crisis.
You’ve probably heard the myth that a person’s organ donation status affects the care they receive in a life-threatening emergency. However, medical professionals don’t consider organ or tissue donor status until death is declared.
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4. Donating organs and tissue does not necessitate a closed-casket funeral for the donor.
Organizations that procure and process organ and tissue donations do so in a way that preserves the donor’s dignity and appearance. Though this may not be the most common organ donation question, it’s still an important one for most donors and their loved ones. Thankfully, it isn’t an issue.
5. Your donated organs and tissues can help or save many more lives than you’d think.
Eight. That’s the number of lives you can save by donating organs. And while that number is inspiring, Donate Life America reports that through tissue donation, one donor can save or enhance the lives of 75 others. And, through corneal donation, one donor can restore sight to two people.
6. All major religions encourage organ donation as an act of charity and goodwill.
Contrary to some assumptions, leaders of all major religions have agreed that organ donation is among the most charitable acts, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A conversation with your trusted spiritual advisor can clear up your concerns about organ and tissue donation.
7. Social status, fame, net worth, gender, and ethnicity are never considered when pairing donors with recipients.
No one receives preferential treatment on the transplant waiting list. According to the HHS, a transplant candidate is prioritized by blood type, tissue or organ needed, medical urgency, and the cumulative time they’ve been on the list — never by social standing or civic status.
8. Donors’ family members are not financially responsible for the recovery and processing of donated tissue and organs after death.
The costs associated with recovered, processed, and transplanted organs or tissue never fall to a deceased donor’s family members.
9. While the kidneys, liver, and heart are the most commonly transplanted organs, many more organs and tissues can be donated.
Some life-changing transplants are not the ones you hear about. Organs like the stomach, intestines, lungs, and pancreas can also be donated. In fact, connective tissues, skin, bones, bone marrow, and even corneas can be donated, as well. Many inspiring stories about organ donation come from these lesser-known procedures.
10. You can do much more than simply become a donor yourself.
Registering to become an organ donor is the first step to improving or saving lives. But there’s much more you can do. Join UPMC’s Donate Life conversation online, share this article with your social networks, and ask friends and family whether they’ve registered. Host an event to raise awareness for an individual on the organ donor waiting list. Encourage more living donors to help by contributing financially to the American Transplant Association’s patient assistance program.
Together, we can close the gap between the number of eligible donors and the number of people on the waiting list.
To register as an organ, eye, or tissue donor, visit UPMC.com/DonateLife.
About Transplant Services
Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.