Thursday, January 20, 2011

12 Myths about Organ Donation


Myth 1: If Intensive Care Unit (ICU) doctors know I’m an organ donor, they won’t work hard to save me.

Fact: If you are admitted in 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.

Myth 2: What if I recover from brain death?

Fact: Although it's a popular scenario in the movies, in real life people don't wiggle a toe after brain death occurs. The standards to determine 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.

Myth 3: When awaiting transplant, financial or celebrity status is as important as medical status.

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.

Myth 4: Organ and tissue donation mutilates the body.

Fact: 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. Again, because the donor is clothed, nothing is noticeable.

Myth 5: Religion bars organ donation.

Fact: Most religious beliefs - including Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam - permit organ donation or leave it to the individual’s discretion. If you're unsure of your faith’s position, clarify this from a member of your clergy.

Myth 6: As a Hindu, if I donate organs, I will be born without them in my next birth.

Fact: This is not true. When a Hindu is cremated, the entire body is consigned to flames and destroyed by fire. The only element not destroyed is the soul. The physical body does not survive death anyway, so the organs hold no relevance in rebirth as they are destructible. It is the everlasting soul that is reborn.

Myth 7:  The donor’s family is charged for donating organs.

Fact: A donor’s family is never charged. If a family believes it has been billed incorrectly, it should immediately contact the local organ procurement organisation and rectify matters.

Myth 8: 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. Therefore, only 1% of prospective donors finally donate vital organs. Most people can become eye, bone and skin donors.

Myth 9: If a prospective donor has health problems, nobody would want the organs.

Fact: 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.

Myth 10: Old people cannot donate organs.

Fact: 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.

Myth 11: 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.

Myth 12: Having “organ donor” noted on the driver’s licence or carrying 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 licence 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.