Checking the ‘organ donor’ box is a powerful and potentially life-saving decision. If the concept makes you uneasy, maybe these facts can give you some perspective.
Becoming an organ donor can mean giving one of the most precious gifts of all: the gift of life. In 2015, 30,970 people received an organ transplant. Each day, 80 people receive organ transplants. While it may feel uncomfortable to think about one of your organs living on without you, you don’t have to die to donate an organ and help someone in need.
“Organ transplantation is magical,” said Rick Selby, MD, professor of surgery and division chief of hepatobiliary, pancreas, and abdominal organ transplantation at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Those fortunate recipients realize an energy state that they have not possessed in years. Their recovery is a moving spectacle for all of us who participate in transplantation and further inspires us to expand transplant science and organ availability.”
Check out these surprising facts that help dispel old wives tales and illuminate just how beneficial it is to be registered as an organ donor.
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1. One person can give up to eight people the gift of life.
That’s right: your donation can help up to eight people live. Your tissue and eye donations can improve the lives of up to 50 people.
2. Those who are brain dead cannot come back to life.
A majority of organ donors have experienced severe head trauma. In these cases, doctors perform in-depth diagnostic tests to determine whether a patient is still alive. If the patient is an organ donor, doctors perform even more tests. When it is decided that a person cannot recover, he is declared brain dead. Being in a coma and being brain dead are not the same. People cannot recover from brain death.
3. The trauma team of medical experts and the transplant team are two different groups of doctors.
The medical staff that declares a patient dead is not the same staff who harvests an organ donor’s organs. In fact, once the patient is declared dead, a national organ procurement organization is notified. This organization then oversees the coordination of organ donation.
4. You don’t have to be dead to be a donor.
In 2015, 1 out of 5 donations came from living donors. Living donors can donate a kidney, lung, partial liver, intestine, and pancreas, as well as certain fluids and tissues. You can find out more about the qualifications for being a living donor at the USC Transplant Institute at Keck Medicine of USC.
5. Becoming an organ donor is different than donating your body to science.
Organ donations benefit a transplant patient. Donating your body to science allows researchers to learn more about the body and make advancements in science. If you are on the organ donation registry, your body will not be donated to science. To become part of a “willed body program,” you must register with individual medical programs, most of which are affiliated with a university. If you live in California, learn more about the Anatomical Gift Program at USC’s willed body program at https://agp.usc.edu/contact-us/.
6. It won’t affect your memorial service.
You can have whatever type of memorial service you wish — even an open casket funeral is still possible for organ and tissue donors.
7. Almost all religions allow and even encourage organ donation.
As organ donation increases and people learn more about its positive effects, various religions are condoning and even encouraging organ donation. The United Network for Organ Sharing shares theological perspectives on organ and tissue donation for those interested in learning more.
By Heidi Tyline King