10 Myths About Organ Donation

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10 Myths About Organ Donation

Organ donation is giving an organ to someone who needs a transplant.


Organ donation is when a person allows healthy transplantable organs and tissues to be removed, either after death or when alive, and transplanted into another person. Common transplantations include: kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, bones, bone marrow, skin, and corneas. There are a lot of myths about organ donation. Lets find out the truth.

1. Myth: Organ and tissue donation mutilates the body.
Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, which doesn't disfigure the body. The donor's body is clothed for cremation, so there are no visible signs of donation. After eye donation, an artificial eye is inserted, the eyelids are closed, and no one can notice any difference. After bone donation, a rod is inserted where the bone has been removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor's back.

2. Myth: Religion bars organ donation.
Fact: Most religious beliefs permit organ donation or leave it to the individual's discretion. If you're unsure of your faith's position, clarify this from your religious leader. None of the religions object to organ donation and transplantation. On the contrary, religions endorse the act of giving and what bigger form of giving can there be than giving life.

3. Myth:The donor's family is charged for donating organs.
Fact: A donor's family is never charged for donating organs. If a family believes it has been billed incorrectly, it should immediately contact the local organ procurement organization and rectify matters.

4. Myth: Anyone can be an organ donor.
Fact: Surgeons harvest organs from patients with strong and still beating hearts. Surgeons don't want vital organs from donors who are completely dead and whose hearts have stopped beating. Few medical conditions automatically disqualify one 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, while other organs are fine. At the time of death, only medical professionals can determine whether a prospect's organs are suitable for transplantation. Some diseases rule out donation including active cancer, active HIV or active infection. For a person with a history of hepatitis, more information would be required at the time of death. Persons with Hepatitis C may still donate organs to a patient who also has Hepatitis C.

5. Myth: I'm under age 18. I'm too young to make this decision.
Fact: That's true, in a legal sense. But your parents can authorize this decision. You can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it's what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide. There's no defined cut-off age. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. At the time of death, only the doctors can decide whether the organs are suitable for transplantation.

6. Myth:Only the heart, liver and kidneys can be donated.
Fact: Other organs such as the pancreas, lungs, small and large intestines, and the stomach can also be transplanted. Moreover, tissues such as skin, bone, heart valves and tendons can be donated too.

7. Myth: If the ICU doctors know I'm an organ donor, they won't work hard to save me.
Fact: If you are admitted in a hospital - sick or injured, the priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death occurs. Moreover, the medical team treating you is distinct from the transplant team.

8. Myth:What if I recover from brain death?
Fact: This doesn't happen. The standards to determine if a person is brain dead are very strict and people who have agreed to donate their organs are given additional tests to confirm that they are truly dead.

9. Myth: When awaiting transplant, the rich and famous get priority.
Fact: What really counts is the severity of illness, time spent waiting, blood type and other important medical information. The organ allocation system is blind to wealth or social status. Factors such as race, gender, age, income and celebrity status are never considered when determining organ recipients.

10. Myth:Having a donor card is all that's required to become a donor. I don't need to tell my family that I want to be a donor because it is written in my will.
Fact: While a signed donor card and a driver's license with an 'organ donor' designation are legal documents, organ donation is usually discussed with family members prior to the donation. To ensure that your family understands and respects your wishes, it's important that you tell them about your decision to donate life. By the time your will is read, it will be too late to recover your organs. Informing your family now is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out.

(Dr.Sonia Lal Gupta is a neurologist specializing in Headache Medicine and Strokes. She is practicing at Metro Multispecialty Hospital, Noida and MP Heart Clinic, New Delhi. She is also the co-host of NDTV's weekly health segment "Doctors on Call".)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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