Common myths and misconceptions about organ, eye and tissue donation

This Saturday, I will be staffing an event at Security Square Mall (Baltimore, MD). I’m pretty excited about it because December and January are our slow months as far as community education opportunities go, and I’ve been missing that public interaction lately. I always meet my fair share of interesting people at events I attend on behalf of LLF, and I always get to have really meaningful conversations with them about organ, eye and tissue donation. Many people approach me and proudly show off the heart of their license, however some of the conversations I have consist of a member of the community telling me they can’t be an organ donor for whatever reason, and me providing them with facts and statistics which either nullify or clarify their concerns. Most of the reasons I am given are some of our most commonly heard myths, so in honor of the fact that I am stepping out into the community this weekend, I thought I’d post some of the most common questions/myths I’ve heard along with a response. So, here we go!

“I can’t donate my organs, I’m too old.”

We have had people in their 90’s donate organs! Never rule yourself out, let the doctors make the final decision at the time of your death. If your organs are unable to be transplanted, doctors will not recover them. But if your organs are healthy, no matter the age, they could be recovered for transplantation and save a life!

“I can’t donate because I want to have an open casket viewing.”

Contrary to popular belief, organ and tissue donation does not rule out the option of having an open casket viewing, or any other after-death plans for that matter. If you are a donor, the body is treated with respect throughout the entire recovery process and when it’s over, your body looks just as it would if you had gone through any other surgery prior to your death. If we recover bone, we insert prosthetics and no one ever knows the difference just by looking at you.

“If I am an organ donor, doctors won’t work as hard to save me.”

This is our most commonly heard myth, and with good reason. On medical dramas like House, Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Private Practice, etc., organ donation storylines are plentiful. The problem is they NEVER GET THEM RIGHT! Medical dramas are to blame for this myth, and we work very hard to help the public understand that this is not the case at all. Doctors, nurses and EMTs all have the same common goal: to save your life. It is their first priority. It isn’t until all efforts to save your life have been exhausted that LLF is and the donation process is begun. And while we’re on the subject, you are NEVER EVER alive when organs or tissue are removed from your body. Never.

I hope this cleared some myths up for you, and if you know someone who believes any of these things, pass this blog along to them too! If you have heard any other myths you’d like us to address, please leave them in a comment on this post and we will be sure to answer them for you. The more we educate, the more lives we can save.

– Lauren


About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
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