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Organ Donation - Myths vs. Reality


Currently, there are over 121,000 people waiting for a life-saving transplant, 3,800 of those people are Marylanders. On average, Marylanders are twelve times more likely to need an organ transplant than to become a deceased organ donor; and every 10 minutes a new name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. On average, 22 people die from the lack of available organs for transplant.

While 98% of Americans say that they support organ and tissue donation, only 30% know the essential steps to becoming a donor.

Becoming an organ donor is easy. By simply saying “yes” to donation at the MVA or registering online at, you can give hope to the thousands waiting for a life-saving transplant.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the topic of organ and tissue donation. So if you find yourself hesitating to register as a donor, consider the following myths vs. realities about organ and tissue donation:

Myth: If someone agrees to donate their organs and tissue, doctors or emergency room staff won’t work as hard to save their life.

Reality: Organ and/or tissue recovery take place ONLY after all efforts have been exhausted in saving a patient’s life and death has been declared by the attending physician. The doctors working to save a patient’s life in an emergency room or a hospital’s intensive care unit are completely separate from the medical team that would be involved in the transplant process.

Myth: I’m too old to be a donor. No one would want my organs.

Reality: No patient is ever too old or too young to give the gift of life. The decision to use a patient’s organs and tissue is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Additionally, registering as a donor is a great way to show support for this life-saving cause, whether you are ultimately able to give the gift or not.

Myth: Many religions are against organ and tissue donation.

Reality: All major religions support organ and tissue donation as the ultimate act of charity. If someone has questions about their faith’s views on donation, they should consult with their minister, pastor, rabbi, or other religious leader.

Myth: Rich, famous, and powerful people move to the front of the line when they need a transplant.

Reality: It may seem like they do because their stories are frequently in the news, but the matching of organs and recipients is coordinated anonymously through the United Network of Organ Sharing, which is based strictly on medical criteria to ensure the organ will go to the person who needs it the most. Celebrity status or wealth is never a factor.

Myth: Donor families are charged for donating their loved one’s organs and tissue.

Reality: There is absolutely no cost to the donor or their family for organ or tissue donation.

Myth: If someone has a history of medical illness, no one would want their organs or tissue.

Reality: At the time of death, a patient’s medical history will be reviewed to see if they are a suitable donor. Even people with diabetes, heart disease, or cancer are able to be a possible organ and tissue donor. Additionally, registering as a donor is a great way to show support for this life-saving cause, whether you are ultimately able to give the gift or not.

Myth: People have been known to “wake up” from brain death.

Reality: People sometimes confuse brain death with coma. Brain death is not a coma. Coma is a state of unconsciousness where a person cannot be awakened. A person may recover or “wake up” from a coma, as well as a brain injury. However, brain death is the permanent loss of all functions of the brain, including the brain stem. It occurs in patients who have suffered a severe, irreversible injury to the brain and entire brain stem. As a result of the injury, and despite all medical efforts, the brain swells and obstructs its own blood supply. Without blood flow, all brain tissue dies within a short period of time. Mechanical devices may maintain body functions, such as heartbeat and respiration, for a few hours or days, but not permanently. A physician confirms brain death using a strict neurological exam. Brain death is a clinical and legal determination of death.

Don’t let common myths about organ and tissue donation stop you from registering as an organ and tissue donor. Visit to register as a donor. You have the power to save lives!