The answers to these questions may help make your decision about organ donation easier.
Nearly 110,000 people are currently on the national transplant list, waiting for a lifesaving organ. Another name gets added to the list approximately every 10 minutes.
For some people, deciding to be an organ donor is an easy decision – one they view as a final act of love and generosity. Others aren’t so sure it’s something they want to do, for a number of reasons.
Before you decide whether organ donation is right for you, consider the answers to some of these common questions:
1. What are the benefits of organ donation?
When you donate your organs, you have the potential of transforming up to 10 lives. You’re giving recipients the gift of life or the chance for a better quality of life. Tissue donation – like bone, skin, corneas, heart valves and vessels – could impact the lives of up to 75 more people.
2. Why do some people not want their organs donated after they die?
During a study by the National Institutes of Health, those opposed to organ donation cited reasons such as mistrust of the system and worrying that their organs would go to someone not deserving of them (e.g., a “bad” person or someone whose poor lifestyle choices caused their illness). Of course, many people have other reasons for not becoming organ donors as well.
3. Can I be an organ donor if I have underlying health conditions?
There are a few serious health conditions that could prevent a person from being a donor, including a cancer that’s actively spreading and HIV. But even if you’re not sure if you’re a suitable donor, you should register if it’s something you want to do. The transplant team will assess the viability of your organs before proceeding. You can also consider donating your body to research or to a local medical school.
4. Is there an age limit for being a donor?
When it comes to organ donation, age doesn’t matter. What matters is the health of the donor and the condition of the organs. The oldest known donor of an internal organ was 92 years old. Donors under the age of 18 need parental consent.
5. Can deceased organ donors still have an open-casket funeral?
Yes. The incisions are relatively small. Funeral directors are trained to fully prepare the body for open-casket funerals using special techniques, makeup and clothing.
6. Can my family make a different decision for me after I die?
If you haven’t signed up to be a donor, your family can still give consent to donate your organs after your death. If you’ve signed up for the national organ donor registry, your family can’t prevent your organs from being donated. If you don’t want your organs donated under any circumstances, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act allows you to submit an official refusal. When deciding whether or not to become an organ donor, it is important to discuss your wishes with your family.
7. Does it cost money to donate organs?
Organ donation does not cost the donor or the donor’s family anything. All costs related to organ donation and transplant are paid by the recipient of the organ.
8. How do I decide if being a donor is right for me?
Read as much as you can about the organ donation process. Discuss the pros and cons with your family, your doctor and your faith leader, if you have one. Ultimately the decision is up to you but some people find it helpful to know how their family members would feel about their decision.
9. How do I register to be an organ donor?
You can sign up as an organ donor at www.organdonor.gov. You can also sign up to be an organ donor when you renew your driver’s license. You should also make your wishes known to your family and document your decision in your end-of-life documents. It’s not enough to just have an organ donor card, because you can’t be certain it will be on you at the time of your death.
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Date Last Reviewed: December 17, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD