A Guide to Organ Donation

As of January 2019, more than 113,000 men, women, and children in the United States are on transplant waiting lists across the country, including the state of California. In most cases, organs must be donated by individuals who have passed on. As a result, efforts continually are underway in the state of California, and across the country, to encourage individuals like you to make the decision to be an organ donor.

Essential Organ Donation Facts

There are some important facts and statistics that you should bear in mind when it comes to the transplant need in the country at this juncture in time. 36,528 transplants of different types were performed in the United States during 2018. While that represents a considerable number of people given a second chance at life because of organ donation, 20 people die each day in the United States awaiting a transplant. Every 10 minutes a person is added to a transplant waiting list.

95 percent of adults in the United States support organ donation. 58% percent of adults are signed up to be organ donors. Only three out of every 1,000 people die in a manner that permits an organ transplant.

One organ donor may be able to donate multiple organs, including:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Intestines

Dispelling Organ Donation Myths

Unfortunately, myths abound when it comes to organ donation. As part of an effort to provide you all the information, you need to make an intelligent decision about organ donation, dispelling prevalent myths is vital.

Hospitals and Medical Professionals Make Money from Selling Donated Organs

Perhaps the most prevalent myth is that hospitals and medical professionals make money from selling donated organs. This is false.

Hospitals will be reimbursed in some instances for expenses incurred in the organ donation process. Medical personnel will receive their normal compensation for time spent on an organ donation.

Medical Professionals Won’t Work as Hard to Save Your Life if You’re an Organ Donor

A recurring myth is that medical professional will balk at making a full-on effort to save your life if you are an organ donor. This simply is not the case. The reality is that medical professionals and hospitals maintain strict codes and standards of practice that outline what must be done to provide appropriate treatment to and care for a patient. Medical professionals do not limit treatment if an individual is an organ donor.

Organs Are Taken From People Who Are Not Dead

Tabloid newspapers and horror stories feature situations in which a person is taken into an operating room for organ donation who is not actually dead. No matter a recurring theme in fiction, organs are never removed from individuals who are not truly, verifiably deceased. The reality is that a person who is an organ donor is submitted to more extensive testing to confirm death than is an individual who is not an organ donor.

Many Religions Do Not Permit Organ Donation

A very few religions have proscriptions against organ donations. This is an issue that can be easily resolved by contacting a clergy member associated with your specific religion. Example of major religions that permit organ donation include:

  • Roman Catholic
  • Nearly all Protestant faiths
  • Islam
  • Nearly all branches of Judaism

People Under 18 Cannot Donate Organs

Because a person under the age of 18 is considered a minor, a parent or legal guardian must consent to an organ donation by a person in this age category. A young person of certain age and maturity certainly can and should make their wishes known to their parents in regard to organ donation.

An Open Casket is Not Possible After Organ Donation

Great care is taken both by the medical team involved in organ donation process as well as the funeral home staff to ensure that a person’s remains are in a condition that permits an open casket if that is desired. Donating organs and having an open casket is not mutually exclusive.

A Person Can Be Too Old to Donate Organs

Another persistent myth is that a person can be “too old” to donate organs. In fact, there is no specific age cut-off to donate. The parameters for donating are not age-based but based on a strict set of medical criteria. Thus, a person should never assume he or she is not able to donate organs because a certain age has been reached.

A Person in Poor Health Cannot Donate Organs

The fact that an individual has a certain disease or illness doesn’t automatically broadly disqualify that person from donating organs. As was mentioned a moment ago, a set of strict medical criteria is used to determine whether certain organs are suitable for donation. Some organs very well may be suitable for donation.

Next-of-Kin Are Charged for the Costs Associated With Organ Donation

Finally, a recurring myth associated with organ donation is that family members of a deceased person are charged the costs associated with organ donation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Family members are never charged for any of the expenses associated with organ donation.

Coordination of Organ Donation With Funeral Home

If you or a loved one have done funeral planning, or if a funeral home is sought out after a loved one has passed on, the funeral home will assist in coordinating the removal of a person’s remains from the hospital following the organ donation process. A funeral home will coordinate the transportation of the body from the hospital. Only pre-planning or initial contact with a funeral home need be undertaken to set this entire process into motion, with no additional effort required on your part.

Local Donation Resources in the State of California

If you are interested in learning more about organ donation in Southern California, there are two donor resources that can provide you the information you need:

One Legacy
221 South Figueroa Street, Suite 500
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 229-5600

Life Sharing
7436 Mission Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 543-7255

Register to Be a California Organ Donor

You can register to be an organ donor in California through a number of avenues. Click on these links to access organ donation registration portals in California: