Should I be an organ donor?

Should I be an organ donor?

To Be, or Not to Be…an Organ Donor
Models of anatomy

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Donating your organs can have a life-saving impact on their recipients. There are pros and cons, but organ donation is one of the most impactful things you can do.

Organ Donation Facts

Successful transplants save cancer patients’ lives, but there are troubling organ donation statistics highlighting how critical donors are for cancer patients.

How many lives are saved by organ donation?

In 2022 the U.S. surpassed a historic milestone with 1 million organ transplants. Though this seems like a turning point in filling the needs of potential recipients patiently waiting for new organs, it just isn’t enough.

How many people are on the organ donor list?

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are currently over 100,000 people on the organ donor waiting list for transplants in the United States alone.

An average of 20 people die per day waiting for a transplant, and many more are removed from the waiting list because they become too sick to undergo a transplant.

Why is there an organ shortage crisis?

The shortage of organs is due to several factors, including the relatively small number of individuals who die in a way that allows organ donation and some families’ reluctance to donate their loved one’s organs.

Additionally, some medical conditions and lifestyle choices can make it difficult for individuals to become organ donors.

Increasing the number of organ donors is essential to addressing the organ shortage in the U.S. and saving more lives. Encouraging individuals to register as organ donors, raising awareness about the importance of organ donation, and improving education about the organ donation process are all essential steps that can be taken to address the organ shortage crisis.

Two people working

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Reasons to be an organ donor

Becoming an organ donor is a powerful way to give the gift of life and make a meaningful impact on the lives of others.

  • Save Lives: People choose to become organ donors to save lives. Donating organs can give someone a second chance at life and improve their quality of life.
  • Personal Connection: Others become an organ donor because they knowsomeone who has been affected by organ donation. It may be a family member, friend, or acquaintance who has received a transplant or is waiting for one.
  • Altruism: A desire to help others and positively impact society. An organ donation is a selfless act that can make a significant difference in the lives of others.
  • Religious Beliefs: Many religions support organ donation as a way of helping others and saving lives. For individuals with strong religious beliefs, becoming an organ donor is an important expression of their faith.
  • Legacy: A way to leave a positive legacy and make a lasting contribution to society. Your organs can be used to help others even after your own life has ended.

You may have thought about being an organ donor, but the idea of your body being prodded for parts might seem morbid. Several misconceptions about reasons why you shouldn’t be an organ donor may prevent people from becoming donors.

Man thinking to himself

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Common misconceptions about organ donation

  • Organs are taken before the person is deceased: You won’t feel a thing. Organ donation can only occur after a person has been declared brain dead by a physician and sometimes after the heart has stopped beating. The medical team follows strict protocols to ensure the donor is deceased before organ removal.
  • Organs are sold on the black market: This is illegal and unethical! Organ donation and transplantation are highly regulated through legitimate medical channels. Organs are allocated based on medical needs, not financial status.
  • My religion doesn’t allow organ donation: This is not true for most beliefs. In fact, many religions support organ donation as a charitable act that can save lives. It’s a good idea to consult with a religious leader or spiritual advisor to learn more about your specific religious beliefs.
  • My body will be disfigured: Not at all. The surgical procedure for organ donation is similar to any other procedure and is performed by a team of medical professionals in a sterile environment.

After an organ donor passes away and their organs are removed for transplantation, the body is treated with great care and respect.  Once the organs have been removed, the body is carefully closed, dressed in clothing, and released to the family for funeral arrangements. There will be no visible changes to the body due to organ donation, and an open-casket funeral is still possible.

  • I’m too old to be an organ donor: You’re never too old to save a life! No age limit exists. Medical professionals will evaluate the condition of the organs to determine whether they are suitable for transplantation.

If you are already on the organ donation registry, you should know this is one of the most extraordinary humanitarian efforts any individual can participate in. Kudos to you!

If you are still on the fence, it’s completely understandable. Giving your organs to a potential stranger is a big decision for you and your family. But, hopefully, you understand why organ donation is so critical to helping others.

You are donating life. What could be bigger or better?

How to become an organ donor

Becoming an organ donor is a simple process.

  1. Register: You can register as an organ donor through your state’s donor registry, usually found on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. You can also register through national organ donation organizations such as Donate Life America.
  2. Consent: After registering, let your family and loved ones know you have chosen to become an organ donor. This ensures that your wishes are honored in the event of your death.
  3. Carry Your Donor Card: Some states provide donor cards that you can carry to indicate your donor status. This can be helpful in an emergency where your driver’s license may not be immediately available.

It’s important to note that you can change your donor status anytime by updating your registration information or informing your family and loved ones.

In addition to organs, donating bone marrow and stem cells can be life-saving for an immunocompromised person.

Need Support?

If you are a family with a new pediatric cancer diagnosis or know of a family in this challenging situation, please Get Help from Here to Serve.

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry and is currently a life science educator for children in grades 5-8.  As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community. 

All content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.