What You Need to Know About Becoming an Organ Donor

Last Updated: July 31, 2023 |
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No one wants to think about what might happen after you die. It’s especially uncomfortable to think about donating your organs after death, particularly if you’re in good health. But the fact is that accidents happen, and tragedy can strike at any moment. Every person is a potential organ donor, and becoming an organ donor gives you the chance to give the gift of life and live on as your organs save the lives of others. Here’s what you need to know about becoming an organ donor.

As you get a new driver’s license or update your information, you may notice that you have the option to register with your state as an organ donor. This decision is more than just a sticker for your license. It’s a choice that can make a life-saving difference for patients waiting on the organ donor list, many of whom die every year due to a shortage of available donor organs.

One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight recipients. And while 95 percent of Americans believe in organ donation, only 52 percent are actually registered to donate organs after death. Often, what’s lacking in organ donor registration is information — which you’ll find in our extensive guide.

In our guide, you’ll learn about organ donation, including eye-opening statistics, myths, and facts about organ donation, pros, and cons of donating organs and tissue, as well as the organs that are currently needed in the United States right now. Plus, you can find additional resources and information to become an organ donor and learn more about organ and tissue donation.

Pros and Cons of Organ Donation

If you’re on the fence about organ or tissue donation, whether living or deceased, these pros and cons can help you make your decision.

Organ Donation Pros

Organ Donation Cons

How to Become an Organ Donor

Supporting organ donation is not the same as being an organ donor. You’ll have to speak up while you’re in good health to ensure that your wishes to donate organs and tissue are carried out if possible after your death. You’ll need to sign up as a donor, register as a donor, and talk to family members about your decision to become an organ donor so that they can give permission to doctors if the situation arises.

Organ Donation Statistics

Organ and tissue donation is an incredible gift that can save lives and improve the health of others. Learn about the impact organ donation can have in these interesting statistics.

Organs Needed in the United States

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, these are the organs currently needed in the United States:

These are the ages of patients currently on the waiting list for donor organ transplants:

Myths and Facts About Organ Donation

While most people support organ donation, it is not always completely understood. Many people have misconceptions and hang-ups that prevent them from registering to become organ donors, but they’re simply not true in most cases. Get the facts about organ donation here.

Myth: Doctors and nurses won’t work as hard to save organ donors.

Fact: Don’t be fooled by TV dramas: the number one priority of medical professionals is always to save your life. Doctors and nurses will work as hard as they can to save you and will only consider organ donation after you have been declared dead. The doctors and nurses involved in your care before death are typically not a part of the recovery or transplantation of organs and tissues.

Myth: You might not really be dead before the hospital decides to begin taking organs.

Fact: Medical staff will always ensure that donors are dead before organ donation procedures begin. Typically, organ donors are given more tests to determine death than those who are not donors.

Myth: You have to be in perfect health to be an organ donor.

Fact: Organ donors are accepted regardless of age or medical history. Doctors will evaluate the condition of your organs when it’s time. Few restrictions exist, such as HIV infection, active cancer, or systemic infection.

Myth: You have to be young to donate organs.

Fact: Organs of all ages are needed, from newborns to senior citizens. The condition of your organs is more important than your age.

Myth: You can’t donate organs if you’re under 18.

Fact: Minors can not authorize organ donation. However, minors can indicate to their family their desire to donate organs. Parents or legal guardians can authorize organ donation.

Myth: You have to die before you can donate organs.

Fact: While obviously, not all organs can be donated from living donors, there are options for living donation, including tissues, kidneys, and pieces of other organs, including the liver and lungs. Kidney and liver patients who can receive a living donor transplant receive good organs sooner. And living donation saves two lives: the recipient and the next in line on the deceased organ waiting list.

Myth: Organ donation goes against my religion.

Fact: Many people have personal beliefs against organ donation. However, most major religions believe in organ donation and view donation as an act of charity and goodwill. Religions that support organ donation include the Protestant faith, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and most Judaism branches. Those unsure of religious beliefs should speak with a member of the clergy.

Myth: Organ donors can’t have open-casket funerals.

Fact: Donors are treated with respect, dignity, and care in the organ procurement process. Donor bodies are clothed for burial, and any signs of organ donation are covered by clothing. Donation does not interfere with open-casket funerals.

Myth: Rich and famous people get priority for available organs.

Fact: While prominent individuals tend to get more headlines when they receive an organ donation, they do not have priority. Strict standards and a national computer system are used in order to distribute organs ethically and fairly with considerations for matching, medical urgency, waiting time, and location.

Myth: Families have to pay for organ donation.

Fact: Organ donor families are not charged for tissue donation. Recipients do not have to pay for organs. However, there may be a cost for procedures and care.

Organ and Tissue Donation Resources

Want to know more about organ and tissue donation? These resources have more information and ways to help.