Our communities have been working through unprecedented challenges with the spread of COVID-19. Healthcare professionals are working to treat those who have been infected and we are all doing our part to keep millions safe and healthy. Amidst the uncertainty, April brings National Donate Life Month – an opportunity to celebrate the lifesaving power of organ, eye and tissue donation.
There are nearly 10,000 New Yorkers currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Approximately one person dies each day in New York while waiting for the organ they desperately need to survive. What’s more heartbreaking is that these deaths are avoidable. There is a significant shortage of registered organ donors in New York, and widespread myths and misconceptions are keeping many people from saying “yes” to organ donation.
In honor of Donate Life Month, it’s time to debunk five common organ donation myths:
Myth: Doctors won’t work as hard to save my life if I am a registered organ donor.
Truth: This is one of the most common myths, but in fact it could not be further from reality. All doctors take a Hippocratic oath to save lives and are deeply committed to their duty. Organ donation is only broached once it is clear that nothing more can be done to save a patient’s life.
Donation is handled by a completely different team than the doctors working to save your life. In most cases, the emergency team will not know that you are a registered organ donor because they do not have access to the registry.
Myth: I’m too old to be an organ donor or I’m not healthy enough to be an organ donor.
Truth: Many people choose not to register because they assume that their organs are too old and will not be useable. In many cases, this is simply not true. Advancing age does not often prevent donation. In fact, the oldest donor in history was a 93-year-old woman who donated her liver in New York. The recipient is alive and well because of her selfless gift.
Do not rule yourself out. Even with an illness, you may be able to be a lifesaving organ donor. Register and allow the doctors to decide if you’re able to donate when the time comes.
Myth: All donated organs go to rich and famous people.
Truth: The organ transplant waiting list is blind to celebrity and wealth. The system is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, and organs are matched with recipients based on things like blood type and other medical information. Race, income and celebrity are never factors in determining who gets an organ transplant.
Myth: If I’m an organ donor, I won’t be able to have a regular funeral.
Truth: Organ donors are still able to have regular funerals. When organs are recovered for transplant, it is done with deep respect for the person and with care for the body. It is similar to any other surgery that takes place, and medical teams work hard to ensure that families can have an open casket funeral.
Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.
Truth: Most major religions support the principles of organ donation and transplantation. In fact, many consider the gift of life to be the greatest legacy a person can leave. You can learn more about religious perspectives on organ donation here.
Choosing to be an organ donor means choosing to save a life and leave a lasting legacy. One person can save up to eight lives and enrich dozens more through tissue donation. Taking a few seconds now to sign up can add many years to a person’s life down the road. To learn more about how you can register as a lifesaving organ donor, visit LiveOnNY.org.