Why is organ donation important?

If you are not already an organ donor, consider becoming one. It may seem gloomy to dwell on what will happen to your body after you die, but choosing to donate your organs and tissues is a selfless and worthwhile decision that could save someone’s life. We share more information about organ transplants and how to register as a donor.

How do organ transplants work?

Organ transplants are among the greatest advances in modern medicine. They were launched in the 1960s and continue to save tens of thousands of lives each year.

By becoming a donor, you agree to make your organs available to people whose organs are failing or damaged by disease or injury. When you die, doctors assess your eligibility for donation based on your medical history and age.

If your organs are deemed suitable, the next step is to match your donation with someone on a waiting list for an organ transplant. This is based on many factors, such as blood type, organ type and size, medical urgency, time already spent on the waiting list, and geographic distance between donor and recipient.

The organ is offered to the transplant center treating the candidate judged to be the most compatible. The transplant team then decides whether to accept or reject the organ based on their own criteria. If the team refuses the organ, the next best matching patient is contacted. The process continues until the organ is placed in a recipient.

How does organ donation help others?

More than 100,000 people in the United States are on a waiting list for an organ transplant, and a new person is added to the list every nine minutes. Around 39,000 transplants were performed in 2020, but that leaves many hopeful recipients waiting their turn. Unfortunately, many never get the call that a suitable gift has been found. In fact, about 17 people die every day due to a lack of organ donors. One of the reasons donor organs remain scarce is that only three out of 1,000 people die in a way that allows organ donation.

Many transplanted organs last the patient’s lifetime, but many do not. How long a transplant lasts depends on many factors, such as how long the organ has been outside of a human body, whether the donor was alive or deceased, and the general health of the recipient. Yet the transplanted organs usually grant the recipient a decade or more of life that they otherwise would not have had.

Which organs can be transplanted?

A single organ donor can save up to eight lives and touch up to 75 if he donates his cornea. Here is a list of the many organs that can be transplanted.

  • Kidneys
  • Hearts
  • livers
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Intestines

Is there a reason not to become an organ donor?

A whopping 95% of Americans support organ donation, but only 60% are actually registered. You may be hesitant to become an organ donor if you have heard misinformation about it in the past. Here’s the truth behind some of people’s most common concerns.

  • Organ donation is free: There is no cost to you, your family or your estate to become an organ donor. Be aware that funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the surviving family.
  • You will always receive the best medical care: doctors focus on saving the life of the person in their care, not someone else’s. The focus is on potential recipients only after you die.
  • Children can choose to be organ donors: Many states allow children to register as organ donors, but the final decision rests with parents or legal guardians when a child dies. Remember that children are also on the list for organ transplants and they need organs that are suitable for their small size.
  • No age and few illnesses automatically disqualify you: don’t assume that no one would want your organs because you’re getting older or have a particular medical condition. Let your doctors decide if your organs and tissues can be donated at the time of your death.
  • Open casket funerals are always an option: surgical professionals recover donated organs and tissues in a way that usually allows the family to have a traditional funeral service if they wish.
  • You can help your loved ones cope: Many organ donor families take comfort in knowing that a loved one’s liver or pancreas helped save someone else.
  • You will be a hero: A donated organ is a second chance for someone with lung disease or kidney failure. Your generous decision gives donors and their families a reason to celebrate and honor you after your passing.

How to become an organ donor

Almost anyone, regardless of age, race or gender, can become an organ donor. If you want, just follow these steps.

  • Join the Donor Registry. It’s the easiest way to give legal consent to donate your organs and tissues when you die. It’s as simple as saying “Yes” when asked if you want to be an organ donor the next time you renew your driver’s license. You know your registration was successful if you see the donor designation (a heart symbol) on your new license. You can also register on the National Donate Life Registry website.
  • Inform your family and loved ones of your intention to be an organ donor so that they can help you achieve your wishes after your death. This is especially important if you have designated someone to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to do so yourself.

What if I need an organ or tissue transplant?

The INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute continues to lead the way in organ transplantation in the United States. Our teams have traveled to more than 20 states to retrieve donated organs for transplant at our Oklahoma City center. We offer groundbreaking procedures that are revolutionizing the field of transplant medicine, including the implantation of the first total artificial heart in Oklahoma. If you are looking for transplant surgery, contact us to see how we can help you.

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