Myths & Misconceptions
More than 118,000 Americans are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. One-third of those people will die before they receive an organ. When you choose to become a donor, you are choosing to do your part to help others in need.
Why doesn’t everyone sign up to be a donor and save lives? Unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions about organ donation that hold some people from signing up. Before you make your decision about becoming a donor, arm yourself with the truth:
MYTH: Doctors will not try to save my life if they know I am a registered organ donor.
TRUTH: Paramedics, doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. The medical staff is completely separate from the transplant team. Transplant surgeons are called only after all efforts to save a life have been exhausted. Learn more about the donation process.
MYTH: I can only sign up to donate when getting/renewing my driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID.
TRUTH: You can sign up to be an organ donor at any time — and it only takes 30 seconds. Sign up now.
MYTH: The rich and famous on the U.S. waiting list for organs get preferential treatment.
TRUTH: Wealth, social status and race are not considered when deciding who will receive an available organ. The computerized matching system selects recipients based on blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location.
MYTH: My religion does not approve of donation.
TRUTH: Many organized religions support organ donation, considering it a generous act that is the individual’s choice. Learn more about religion and donation.
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 and make certain they are honored.
MYTH: Minorities should refuse to donate because organ allocation discriminates by race.
TRUTH: Organs are matched by many factors including blood type, medical urgency and time on the waiting list. A patient’s age, gender, race, ethnicity or wealth does not affect who receives available organs. Minorities make up more than half of the people currently on the organ transplant waiting list, and patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race or ethnicity. This is why it is especially important for minorities to sign up to be organ donors. Learn more about minorities and organ donation.
MYTH: I can’t be a donor because of my age or health issues.
TRUTH: Anyone can decide to be a donor regardless of age or health. In fact, the oldest organ donor in the U.S. was 92. Your ability to donate is determined at the time of death.
MYTH: My family will be charged for donating my organs.
TRUTH: There are no costs to the donor’s family for donation. It is also free to sign up to be an organ donor or to have it included on your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID. Sign up to be an organ donor.
MYTH: Donation will interfere with plans for my funeral.
TRUTH: Donation should not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings. Doctors maintain dignity and respect for the donor at all times.
MYTH: Organs are sold, with enormous profits going to the medical community.
TRUTH: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the United States. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.
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.