Myths & Misconceptions
If I am in an accident, and the hospital knows I want to be a donor, they will withhold medical treatment and not attempt to save my life.
Medical staff will do everything they can to save your life. The doctors and nurses that work to save your life are not the same doctors and nurses involved with organ and tissue donation. It is only after every attempt has been made to save your life that donation is considered. In fact, from a medical standpoint, patients must receive the most aggressive life-saving care in order to be potential donors.
Famous or rich people get organ transplants first.
The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the country’s transplant centers have created a waiting list, which has each waiting recipient by weight, height and blood group. Priority depends on scientific and medical factors, including urgency of need, length of time on the waiting list, blood type, and organ size compatibility. Factors such as race, gender, age, income, or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ.
Donation disfigures the body.
Donation does not disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket. Donation is a type of surgery and every donor is treated with great care, respect and dignity during the donation process, including careful reconstruction of one's body. Donation as a rule does not delay funeral plans.
My loved one cannot have an open casket funeral if they are an organ and tissue donor.
Your loved one can be a donor and still have an open casket for the funeral. The clothes chosen for the viewing cover any sign of donation. For organ donation, surgery lines are fully covered by all clothing except for a low cut or v-neck top. Skin donation takes skin from the back and legs and is not visible with clothing. A stand-in plastic bone is used to allow the shape of the legs and arms to remain the same for bone donation. For eye donation, a plastic cap is placed over the eye to maintain the shape of the closed eyelid.
My family will be charged if I donate my organs.
Donation costs nothing to the donor’s family or estate. Organ and tissue donation is a gift. All costs and expenses incurred after your death and related to donation through the recovery of the organs, eyes, and tissues will be the recovery agency's responsibility. Medical costs not related directly to donation and funeral costs are the responsibility of your estate, family, or other responsible party. If the funeral home requires payment due to additional preparation of the body, those costs are paid for by the recovery agency.
My family will receive money for my donation.
It is illegal to buy or sell human organs or tissue. Organ and tissue donation is a gift. The family receives no payment or reimbursement for donation.
My religion does not approve of donation.
Most major religions, with the exception of Shinto, approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it a gift, a humanitarian act of giving. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of most faiths, and others consider donation a matter of personal choice. Visit Organdonor.gov for additional information. If you have any questions, speak to your spiritual or religious advisor.
My organs will be sold to the highest bidder.
Buying and selling organs for the purpose of transplantation is illegal in the United States. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs cannot be bought or sold, and violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. The strict regulation prevents any type of "black market" for organs in the United States. Medically speaking, illegal sales are not possible in the United States because recovered organs must be appropriately matched to recipients and distributed according to national policy established by UNOS.
The recipient of my organs and/or tissues will know who I am.
The identity of all parties is kept confidential during the donation process. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive such information as age, sex and state of residence. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of death, and the donor’s family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive feedback on how the health of the recipient(s) has improved.
The donation agencies facilitate all correspondence and meetings that may be initiated by either the donor family or recipient. Both parties must agree before any meetings are arranged.
Crohn's disease will keep me from being a donor.
A history of Crohn's disease does not stop you from being a donor. A full medical and social medical history is taken. That and the condition of your body at the time of death will determine if you can be a donor.
Having cancer will keep me from being a donor.
It depends on the type and location of the cancer. Some cancer patients can be a cornea donor. Cancer survivors who had cancer five or more years ago may be a donor. A full medical and social medical history is taken. The initial finding, care, and follow-up care are studied. All of these measures and the state of the body at death will determine if you can be a donor.
People with HIV cannot be donors.
As with any donor, medical evaluation is conducted to determine organ viability on a case by case basis at or near the time of death. The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act allows for research into transplanting organs from HIV-positive donors into HIV-positive recipients. For additional information on the HOPE Act visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/11/25/2015-30172/final-human-immunodeficiency-virus-hiv-organ-policy-equity-hope-act-safeguards-and-research-criteria. A listing of hospitals participating in the HOPE Act can be found at https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/learn/professional-education/hope-act/.
Donation will delay the funeral.
Most donations take place within 12 to 24 hours after death. Donation does not delay funeral plans.
You have to be young and healthy when you die to be a donor.
Donors range from the very young to the very old. People of all ages should consider themselves likely donors.