November 4, 2021

Signing up to donate organs makes you an instant hero. Learn 10 facts about organ donation.

In 2020, more than 39,000 organ transplants were done in the U.S. These surgeries give people who have a failing kidney, heart, liver or other organ a second chance at life. In Tennessee, nearly 450 people donated organs in 2020, with 1,317 organs transplanted, according to Tennessee Donor Services.

Nationally, about 107,000 people — more than 3,000 of them in Tennessee — are waiting for an organ donation.

There has always been a greater demand for donated organs than there are donors. Organ donation misconceptions may be a reason for low participation in the Donate Life program. Understanding the facts about organ donation may persuade you to register as an organ donor, potentially providing a life-saving gift to someone who is on the wait list for a donated organ.

Tennessee Donor Services and the Vanderbilt Transplant Center together provide organ donation facts to address 10 of the most common misunderstandings about organ donation:

FACT: You will receive the same level of care from your doctors and nurses regardless of whether you are an organ and tissue donor. The quality of your care is not influenced by your status as a registered organ and tissue donor. According to federal law, doctors treating a potential donor in the hospital are not permitted to also be involved with transplant programs or organ transplant candidates.

FACT: Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been legally declared. The medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team.

FACT: Organ recipients are matched with potential donors based on blood and tissue type, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location. A national system with strict standards (United Network for Organ Sharing) ensures ethical and fair distribution of organs. A recipient’s financial status does not influence how quickly they receive a donated organ.

FACT: Someone who is an organ and tissue donor can have a traditional funeral service with an open casket viewing. The procedure for donating organs does not disfigure the body. Through the entire organ donation process, the body is treated with care and dignity and is reconstructed after organs and tissues are removed.

FACT: There are no hospital-associated costs to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Expenses related to donation are paid by the organ and tissue recovery organization. (Donor families are responsible for funeral costs for their loved ones.)

FACT: Almost everyone, regardless of age, can donate an organ or tissue to help others. Donors can range in age from newborn to senior citizen. People of all ages and most medical histories can give a precious gift by becoming an organ and tissue donor. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated. Complete medical screening and evaluation are done to ensure the organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

FACT: It is against the law to buy or sell human organs and tissues in the U.S. In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act, which outlawed buying and selling human organs. By federal law, all organs recovered for transplant from deceased donors in this country are monitored and tightly controlled by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), making it illegal to retrieve or transplant human organs outside of the system. The intent of the law is to ensure equal access to donor organs.

FACT: Many families say that donation often eases their grief because they know that the loss of their loved ones led to giving new life to others. Not knowing how their loved one felt about donation makes discussing it difficult, which is why it is so important to register your decision and talk to your family about donating life.

FACT: The recipient of a donated organ does not know the identity of the organ donor and vice-versa, unless the recipient and the donor’s family agree otherwise. The donor family and transplant recipient may opt to receive information such as age, gender and state of residence of the donor or recipient. Individually, the organ recipient may be told the circumstances of death, and the donor family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive feedback on how the health and lives of the recipients have improved. The donation agency facilitates correspondence and meetings initiated by either the donor family or the recipient, but only if both parties give consent.

FACT: Organ donation is in line with the beliefs of most major religions. The donation of life is an act of kindness. If you have questions about the spiritual implications of organ donation, talk to a person of authority within your faith.

Help save a life. Sign up to become an organ and tissue donor today.

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The Vanderbilt Transplant Center is one of the South’s main providers of kidney, heart, liver, lung, pancreas, stem cell and bone marrow transplants. Learn more by clicking here.

Learn about organ donations and how you can register at Donate Life Tennessee.