Myths & Misconceptions

Base your decision to say “YES” to organ and tissue donation on the facts, not on myths and misconceptions.

Myth: Doctors will not try to save my life if they know I want to be a donor.

Truth: Paramedics, doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. The medical staff trying to save lives is completely separate from the transplant team. Donation takes place and transplant surgeons are called in only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted and death is imminent or has been declared.

Myth: My religion does not approve of donation.

Truth: All organized religions support donation, typically considering it a generous act that is the individual's choice.

Myth: I don't need to tell my family that I'd like to be a donor because it's already written in my will.

Truth: By the time your will is read, it will be too late for you to be a donor. Telling your family now that you want to be an organ and tissue donor is the best way to help them understand your wishes concerning this decision and make certain that your wishes are honored.

Myth: The rich and famous on the U.S. waiting lsit for organs get preferential treatment.

Truth: The organ allocation and distribution system is blind to wealth, social status or race. The computerized matching system selects recipients based on blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time, and geographic location.

Myth: Minorities should refuse to donate because organ distribution discriminates by race.

Truth: Organs are matched by factors, including blood and tissue typing, which can vary by race. Patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race or ethnicity which is why it’s important for people of all races to become donors.

Myth: I am too old to donate organs and tissues.

Truth: People of all ages may be organ and tissue donors. Physical condition, not age, is important. Sign up now; physicians will decide whether your organs and tissues can be transplanted.

(Note: The general age limit for tissue and eye donation is 80.)

Myth: My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Truth: There are no costs to a person’s family for donation.

Myth: Donation will interfere with my plans for my funeral.

Truth: Donation will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Myth: I have a history of medical illness. You would not want any of my organs.

Truth: At the time of death, the organ procurement organization will review medical and social histories to determine medical suitability. Few illnesses or conditions prevent someone from being a donor.

Myth: Donation will disfigure my body.

Truth: Organs and tissues are removed in procedures similar to surgery, and all incisions are closed at the conclusion of the surgery. Doctors maintain dignity and respect for the donor at all times. An open casket funeral is possible after donation.

Myth: Organs are sold, with enormous profits going to the medical community.

Truth: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.

Myth: I heard about this guy who went to a party, and woke up the next morning in a bathtub full of ice. His kidneys were stolen for sale on the black market!

Truth: There is absolutely no documented case of this ever happening. This story is a hoax and has become a famous, yet harmful, urban myth. Due to the complexity of transplantation, the necessity of involvement from trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for highly skilled medical professionals to perform the surgery, the need for modern medical facilities and the support necessary for transplantation make it impossible for this "legend" to actually occur.

Myth: The recipient will know who I am.

Truth: Information about the donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, the strictest confidence of patient privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.

Myth: I cannot choose what I want to donate.

Truth: You may specify what organs or tissues you want to donate on your donor card. Your wishes will be followed.

Myth: I don't want my organs going to people who didn't take care of their organs.

Truth: Most recipients have illnesses or diseases. People who formerly abused drugs and alcohol make up less than 5 percent of recipients, and must stay sober for five months before being added to the transplant list.

Myth: Doctors will not try to save my life if they know I want to be a donor.

Truth: Paramedics, doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. The medical staff trying to save lives is completely separate from the transplant team. Donation takes place and transplant surgeons are called in only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted and death is imminent or has been declared.

Myth: My religion does not approve of donation.

Truth: All organized religions support donation, typically considering it a generous act that is the individual's choice.

Myth: I don't need to tell my family that I'd like to be a donor because it's already written in my will.

Truth: By the time your will is read, it will be too late for you to be a donor. Telling your family now that you want to be an organ and tissue donor is the best way to help them understand your wishes concerning this decision and make certain that your wishes are honored.

Myth: The rich and famous on the U.S. waiting lsit for organs get preferential treatment.

Truth: The organ allocation and distribution system is blind to wealth, social status or race. The computerized matching system selects recipients based on blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time, and geographic location.

Myth: Minorities should refuse to donate because organ distribution discriminates by race.

Truth: Organs are matched by factors, including blood and tissue typing, which can vary by race. Patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race or ethnicity which is why it’s important for people of all races to become donors.

Myth: I am too old to donate organs and tissues.

Truth: People of all ages may be organ and tissue donors. Physical condition, not age, is important. Sign up now; physicians will decide whether your organs and tissues can be transplanted.

(Note: The general age limit for tissue and eye donation is 80.)

Myth: My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Truth: There are no costs to a person’s family for donation.

Myth: Donation will interfere with my plans for my funeral.

Truth: Donation will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Myth: I have a history of medical illness. You would not want any of my organs.

Truth: At the time of death, the organ procurement organization will review medical and social histories to determine medical suitability. Few illnesses or conditions prevent someone from being a donor.

Myth: Donation will disfigure my body.

Truth: Organs and tissues are removed in procedures similar to surgery, and all incisions are closed at the conclusion of the surgery. Doctors maintain dignity and respect for the donor at all times. An open casket funeral is possible after donation.

Myth: Organs are sold, with enormous profits going to the medical community.

Truth: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.

Myth: I heard about this guy who went to a party, and woke up the next morning in a bathtub full of ice. His kidneys were stolen for sale on the black market!

Truth: There is absolutely no documented case of this ever happening. This story is a hoax and has become a famous, yet harmful, urban myth. Due to the complexity of transplantation, the necessity of involvement from trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for highly skilled medical professionals to perform the surgery, the need for modern medical facilities and the support necessary for transplantation make it impossible for this "legend" to actually occur.

Myth: The recipient will know who I am.

Truth: Information about the donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, the strictest confidence of patient privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.

Myth: I cannot choose what I want to donate.

Truth: You may specify what organs or tissues you want to donate on your donor card. Your wishes will be followed.

Myth: I don't want my organs going to people who didn't take care of their organs.

Truth: Most recipients have illnesses or diseases. People who formerly abused drugs and alcohol make up less than 5 percent of recipients, and must stay sober for five months before being added to the transplant list.

Myth: Doctors will not try to save my life if they know I want to be a donor.

Truth: Paramedics, doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. The medical staff trying to save lives is completely separate from the transplant team. Donation takes place and transplant surgeons are called in only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted and death is imminent or has been declared.

Myth: My religion does not approve of donation.

Truth: All organized religions support donation, typically considering it a generous act that is the individual's choice.

Myth: I don't need to tell my family that I'd like to be a donor because it's already written in my will.

Truth: By the time your will is read, it will be too late for you to be a donor. Telling your family now that you want to be an organ and tissue donor is the best way to help them understand your wishes concerning this decision and make certain that your wishes are honored.

Myth: The rich and famous on the U.S. waiting lsit for organs get preferential treatment.

Truth: The organ allocation and distribution system is blind to wealth, social status or race. The computerized matching system selects recipients based on blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time, and geographic location.

Myth: Minorities should refuse to donate because organ distribution discriminates by race.

Truth: Organs are matched by factors, including blood and tissue typing, which can vary by race. Patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race or ethnicity which is why it’s important for people of all races to become donors.

Myth: I am too old to donate organs and tissues.

Truth: People of all ages may be organ and tissue donors. Physical condition, not age, is important. Sign up now; physicians will decide whether your organs and tissues can be transplanted.

(Note: The general age limit for tissue and eye donation is 80.)

Myth: My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Truth: There are no costs to a person’s family for donation.

Myth: Donation will interfere with my plans for my funeral.

Truth: Donation will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Myth: I have a history of medical illness. You would not want any of my organs.

Truth: At the time of death, the organ procurement organization will review medical and social histories to determine medical suitability. Few illnesses or conditions prevent someone from being a donor.

Myth: Donation will disfigure my body.

Truth: Organs and tissues are removed in procedures similar to surgery, and all incisions are closed at the conclusion of the surgery. Doctors maintain dignity and respect for the donor at all times. An open casket funeral is possible after donation.

Myth: Organs are sold, with enormous profits going to the medical community.

Truth: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.

Myth: I heard about this guy who went to a party, and woke up the next morning in a bathtub full of ice. His kidneys were stolen for sale on the black market!

Truth: There is absolutely no documented case of this ever happening. This story is a hoax and has become a famous, yet harmful, urban myth. Due to the complexity of transplantation, the necessity of involvement from trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for highly skilled medical professionals to perform the surgery, the need for modern medical facilities and the support necessary for transplantation make it impossible for this "legend" to actually occur.

Myth: The recipient will know who I am.

Truth: Information about the donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, the strictest confidence of patient privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.

Myth: I cannot choose what I want to donate.

Truth: You may specify what organs or tissues you want to donate on your donor card. Your wishes will be followed.

Myth: I don't want my organs going to people who didn't take care of their organs.

Truth: Most recipients have illnesses or diseases. People who formerly abused drugs and alcohol make up less than 5 percent of recipients, and must stay sober for five months before being added to the transplant list.