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Why Is Organ Donation Important?

29 March 2022

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If you aren’t already an organ donor, consider becoming one. It may seem grim to dwell on what will happen to your body after you die, but choosing to donate your organs and tissue is a selfless and worthwhile decision that could save someone’s life. We share more 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 pioneered in the 1960s and continue to save tens of thousands of lives every year.

By becoming a donor, you agree to make your organs available to people whose organs have failed or been damaged by disease or injury. When you pass away, doctors evaluate your eligibility to donate based on your medical history and age. 

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

The organ is offered to the transplant center treating the candidate who is deemed the best match. The transplant team then decides whether to accept or decline the organ based on their own criteria. If the team declines the organ, the next best matching patient is contacted. The process continues until the organ is placed with a recipient.

How does organ donation help others?

Over 100,000 people in the United States are on an organ transplant waitlist, and a new person is added to the list every nine minutes. About 39,000 transplants were performed in 2020, but that leaves many hopeful recipients waiting their turn. Unfortunately, many never receive the call that a suitable donation has been found. In fact, about 17 people die every day because of a lack of donor organs. One reason donor organs remain in short supply is because only three out of 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation to be possible.

Many transplanted organs last the patient’s lifetime, but many don’t. The lifespan of a transplant depends on numerous factors, such as how long the organ was outside a human body, whether the donor was living or deceased, and the general health of the recipient. Still, transplanted organs typically grant the recipient a decade or more of life they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

What organs can be transplanted?

A single organ donor can save up to eight lives—and impact as many as 75 if they give their corneas. Here is a list of the numerous organs that can be transplanted.

  • Kidneys
  • Hearts
  • Livers
  • Lungs
  • Pancreases
  • Intestines

Is there any reason not to become an organ donor?

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

  • It’s free to donate organs: There’s no cost to you, your family or your estate to become an organ donor. Be aware that funeral costs remain the surviving family’s responsibility.
  • You’ll still receive the best medical care: Doctors concentrate on saving the life of the person in their care, not someone else’s life. The focus only shifts to potential transplant recipients after you pass away.
  • Children can choose to be organ donors: Many states allow kids to register as organ donors, but the final decision rests with the parents or legal guardians when a child passes away. Keep in mind that kids are on the organ transplant list too, and they need organs to fit their small size.
  • No age and few illnesses automatically disqualify you: Don’t assume 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 are suitable for donation at your time of death.
  • An open-casket funeral is still an option: Surgical professionals recover donated organs and tissues in a way that usually permits the family to have a traditional funeral service if desired.
  • You can help your loved ones cope: Many families of organ donors gain peace from knowing their loved one’s liver or pancreas helped save someone else.
  • You’ll be a hero: A donated organ is a second chance at life for someone with lung disease or kidney failure. Your generous decision gives donor recipients and their families reason to celebrate and honor you after you pass away.

How to become an organ donor

Almost anyone—regardless of age, race or gender—can become an organ donor. If you wish to do so, simply follow these steps.

  • Join the donor registry. This is the easiest way to give legal consent for the gift of 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 through the National Donate Life Registry website.
  • Let your family and other loved ones know your intention to be an organ donor so they can help fulfill your wishes after you pass away. 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 US. Our teams have flown to over 20 states to retrieve donated organs for transplant at our center in Oklahoma City. We offer groundbreaking procedures that are revolutionizing the field of transplant medicine, including implanting the first total artificial heart in Oklahoma. If you’re looking for transplant surgery, get in touch with us to see how we can help.


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