Thinking of Becoming an Organ Donor? Key Things to Know

Thinking of Becoming an Organ Donor? Key Things to Know

Thanks to the wonders of science and medicine we're able to successfully use donated organs and tissues to save lives and extend the lives to those who are ill or in need of help. April is Donate Life Month which honors and highlights the need for organ donors and celebrates those who have donated. Becoming an organ donor is a selfless act that can save the lives of up to eight people and further impact the lives of 75 people!

Organ donation is a topic that many people wonder about but sometimes aren't comfortable discussing especially their fears or concerns about what's involved. Questions like, "Does your religion prevent you from becoming a donor?" are common and we'll answer that!

Whether it's you deciding for yourself to become a living donor or a donor when you've passed away, or you're in the midst of a medical crisis with a loved one and have been asked if you'd like to donate their organs, there's a lot of questions and concerns. Being educated on the facts is key.

What's the First Step in Becoming an Organ Donor?

The first step in becoming an organ donor is educating yourself on what is involved. Part of that first step is talking about it with your family so they know your wishes.

You can become a donor in the following ways:

  • Register with your state's donor registry: Most states have organ donor registries. You can also sign up at
  • Designate organ donor choice on your driver's license: When you obtain or renew your driver's license you can indicate that you want to become an organ donor. A small heart will indicate your status as a donor will be shown on your license.

Infographic with organ donation statistics

There are some myths about organ donation that can confuse people and lead to misinformation. Information is power! Here are a few myths thanks to the Mayo Clinic:

Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won't work as hard to save my life.

Fact: When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else's. You'll be seen by a doctor whose expertise most closely matches your particular condition and who can give you the best care possible.

Myth: Maybe I won't really be dead when they sign my death certificate.

Fact: Although it's a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don't start to wiggle their toes after they're declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they're truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.

Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. These religions include Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism and most Protestant faiths. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on organ donation, ask a member of your clergy.

Myth: I'm under age 18. I'm too young to make this decision.

Fact: Many states allow people who are younger than 18 to register as organ donors but the final decision will remain with a young person's parents or legal guardian. Discuss your wish to become an organ donor with your family and ask for their consent. Keep in mind that children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.

Myth: An open-casket funeral isn't an option for people who have donated organs or tissues.

Fact: Organ and tissue donation doesn't interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor's body is clothed for burial and treated with care and respect, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation.

Myth: I'm too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.

Fact: There's no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don't prematurely disqualify yourself. Let the doctors decide at the time of your death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: I'm not in the best of health. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.

Fact: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you 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, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don't prematurely disqualify yourself. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: I'd like to donate one of my kidneys now, but I wouldn't be allowed to do that unless one of my family members is in need.

Fact: While that used to be the case, it isn't any longer. Whether it's a distant family member, friend or complete stranger you want to help, you can donate a kidney through certain transplant centers.

If you decide to become a living donor, you will undergo extensive questioning to ensure that you are aware of the risks and that your decision to donate isn't based on financial gain. You will also undergo testing to determine if your kidneys are in good shape and whether you can live a healthy life with just one kidney.

Myth: Rich and famous people go to the top of the list when they need a donor organ.

Fact: The rich and famous aren't given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when a celebrity receives a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. The reality is that celebrity and financial status are not considered in organ allocation.

Myth: My family will be charged if I donate my organs.

Fact: The organ donor's family is never charged for donation. The family is charged for the costs of all final efforts to save your life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.

Laura Richards AuthorThumbnail

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