In my work with Gift of Hope and Donate Life Illinois, it's been an eye-opening experience to see how many people are quick to dismiss becoming an organ/tissue donor based on preconceived myths or misconceptions surrounding the issue. The donation community is constantly working to educate the public about why these myths are in fact myths. In the past, I've called attention to the great work by One Legacy in California and their Donate Life Hollywood initiative, working with producers and writers to ensure myths are dispelled and the donation and transplantation process is accurately portrayed.
Without a doubt, the number one myth we hear is that doctors won't try to save your life if they know you are a donor. FALSE! If it strikes you as absurd reasoning, it's because it is absurd reasoning. Nonetheless, you'd be blown away by how many people honestly believe that this is why they should not register. You can check out some further reasoning below along with some additional explanations behind popular myths that are out there. Education is a crucial step to start breaking down these barriers to registration...keep spreadin' the word.
Also, we provide the information below on the Donate Life Illinois website here.
Myth: I heard that if I’m in an accident and the hospital knows I want to be a donor, the doctors won’t try to save my life, is that true?
Fact: No. Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been declared. The doctors trying to save your life are completely separate from the transplant surgeons involved in recovering organs and tissues, who are notified only after your death.
Myth: I've heard organ and tissue donation disfigures the body...
Fact: False. Organs and tissues are recovered in a surgical procedure that does not disfigure the body and should not interfere with customary funeral arrangements. After the recovery procedure the body is carefully restored. Donation does not impact the ability to have an open-casket viewing; people would not be able to tell the deceased was an organ/tissue donor unless they were told. Aside from an open-casket visitation, burial and cremation are also possible.
Myth: I'm too old, too sick, or drink too much to be a donor...
Fact: There are no age limitations on who can donate. Both newborns and senior citizens have been donors. Physical condition, not a person’s age, determines suitability to be a donor. Because of disease or other problems, some people wishing to donate may be ruled medically unsuitable. This determination is made by transplant specialists at the time someone wishing to be a donor has died.
Myth: I’ve heard that wealthy or famous people get priority for organs.
Fact: A national computer system and strict federal, regional and local systems are in place to ensure ethical and equitable distribution of organs. Organs are allocated based on the recipient's blood type, body size, medical urgency, length of time on the waiting list and proximity to transplant center.
Myth: “I heard about the guy who went to a party and woke up in a bathtub full of ice. One of his kidneys was stolen and placed for sale on the black market.”
Fact: There is no documented case of this ever happening. U.S. law prohibits the buying and selling of organs. This popular urban legend has been repeated many times in newspapers and over the Internet but is not true.
Myth: People have been known to "wake up" from brain death.
Fact: Brain death is not a coma. It is a clinical and legal determination of death. Brain death occurs in patients who have suffered a severe, irreversible injury to the brain and brain stem. As a result of the injury, and despite all medical efforts, the brain swells and obstructs its own blood supply. Without blood flow, all brain tissue dies within a short period of time. Mechanical devices may maintain body functions, such as heartbeat and respiration, for a few hours or days but not permanently. A physician confirms brain death using a strict neurological exam.