Myths & Facts


A recent survey reveals continuing myths regarding donation.  “It’s important for people to know the facts,” says David Fleming, president and CEO, Donate Life America. “For health professionals, the number one priority is always to save the lives of their patients, and only after death is organ and tissue donation considered. While you can recover from comas, brain death is permanent, irreparable.”

MYTH: If I register as a donor, my wish to donate will be honored.

FACT: Even if you are a registered donor, it is essential that your family know your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur.  If you have told them that you are a registered donor, you give them the gift of being able to carry out your wishes with confidence.  If you wish to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact your local organ procurement organization (OPO). The OPO can advise you of specific local procedures, such as joining donor registries that are available to residents in your area.

MYTH: If doctors know I want to be a donor, they won’t try to save my life.

FACT:  If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Medical professionals are required by law and medical oath to do everything they can to save your life. Organ, eye and tissue donation can only be considered after you are deceased.   A separate team of medical professionals becomes involved after this time.

MYTH: I am too old to donate organs, eyes, and tissues.

FACT: Age limits for organ donation no longer exist. Newborns through the elderly can donate.  Other factors, not age, will determine if donation takes place.

MYTH: My religion does not allow organ and tissue donation.

FACT: All major U.S. religions support organ donation or the right of individual members to make this decision.  Most consider it a generous act of charity.  (Read about various religious viewpoints.)

MYTH: I cannot donate because I have a serious medical condition (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.)

FACT:  The desire to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor is to be celebrated!  With recent advances in transplantation, more people than ever can donate.  Don’t hesitate to register, knowing that your medical history will be reviewed.  Careful testing of organs and tissues is done after a person passes away to determine which may be safely donated.  Almost everyone (except those with certain blood or eye cancers) can donate corneas to help restore vision, even when other organs or tissue cannot be used.

MYTH: If I am an organ donor, my family will have to pay for the procedure.

FACT: A donor’s family is never charged for donation.

MYTH: They might take my organs before I am really dead.

FACT: Organ donation is only accepted following official declaration of death by a doctor NOT involved in transplantation. In order to donate organs, a patient must be declared dead.

MYTH: Wealthy people jump ahead on the waiting list by purchasing needed organs and tissue.

FACT: In 1984 the National Organ Transplant Act prohibited the sale of human organs in the United States.

MYTH: Celebrities or people with the right connections can jump ahead of ordinary people on the waiting list.

FACT: When a person is on the waiting list for an organ, what matters is the severity of the illness, the length time on the wait list, blood type of the person waiting and other important medical details, not connections or celebrity status.

MYTH: I cannot be a donor because I would like an open casket funeral.

FACT: Surgical techniques are used to retrieve organs and tissues, and all incisions are closed. The body is treated with dignity and respect. No one but the family will know that donation took place.

Information, in part, from Health Resources and Services Administration contract 234-2005-37011C  The content is the responsibility of the authors alone and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.