April not only kicks off spring, it also begins National Donate Life Month, a month dedicated to organ donation awareness. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, just over one third (37 percent) of licensed drivers in 2008 signed up to be organ donors. A study conducted by Donate Life America suggests that this low percentage may stem from a fear or misconception of the facts of organ donation. However, research shows that most of these myths are unfounded.
51 percent of Americans believe that if they have signed up to be an organ donor, a doctor may not try as hard to save their life, according to Donate Life America. However, Dr. Mark Galantowicz, surgical director of the heart and heart-lung transplant team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital assures us that this fear is unfounded.
“I completely understand the fear,” Galantowicz said. “However, the doctors, nurses and teams that perform transplants are totally separate from the ill patients that may provide organs.”
Galantowicz assures skeptics that logistically and ethically, this trepidation is baseless.
Senior Sally O’Brein is a registered organ donor and said she believes doctors should be trusted to do their jobs.
“Doctors are here to save lives, and we should be able to trust them,” O’Brien said.
According to Donate Life America, 44 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that there is a black market in America where people can sell or buy organs for transplant. Therefore, many potential donors are scared that if they decide to donate an organ, they may wake up after an operation with organs removed and sold to a black market.
However, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) discredits this theory, reassuring Americans that there is no black market for organs in the United States.
“There is absolutely no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the U.S.,” UNOS’ web site said. “The tale has no basis in the reality of organ transplantation.”
O’Brien shared similar beliefs, agreeing this idea seems simply false.
“If you are doing a good thing by donating an organ, doctors will not betray your trust and take out multiple organs to sell to a black market,” O’Brien said. “Besides, it is stupid to think that such a thing exists.”
Galantowicz refuses to believe that doctors would sell harvested organs to the black market.
“I understand the fear because there are reports that get into the paper about selling organs to a black market,” Galantowicz said. “However, they usually come from another country.” Besides the fact that selling organs to the black market is not happening in the US, if it were, Galantowicz assures skeptics that the law would handle the situation.
“This is a criminal act, it is prosecuted very, very, very aggressively,” Galantowicz said. “It’s just not true.”
Another myth is that people under 18 cannot make the decision to be an organ donor. This is only half true. According to the Mayo Clinic, a prestigious hospital in Minnesota, legally someone has to be 18 or older to make the decision to donate organs; however, for younger patients, parental consent is needed.
“Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide,” the Mayo Clinic’s web site states.
Junior Michael Rogers, who plans to be get his license later this year, has been considering becoming an organ donor.
“I plan on becoming an organ donor when I get my license,” Rogers said. “I know that it is not a difficult process, especially when getting or renewing your license.”
If interested in becoming an organ donor, there is a three-step process. First, register with Ohio’s donor registry at www.organdonor.gov, then, request to be an organ donor upon license renewal. Finally, sign and carry a donor card, also found on the same web site.
While many myths surround organ donation, research into these myths shows them to have little validity. Donate Life America sums up the process of organ donation perfectly.
“The decision to become a living donor involves careful consideration,” states Donate Life America’s web site, “[but] transplantation gives hope to thousands of people with organ failure and provides many others with active and renewed lives.”