I just wanna give a shout out this multimedia experience we have going on today! I mean come on – look at this slideshow.
I’m done gushing over my handiwork now.
Welcome back to our Can We Talk series on Organ Donation! Last week we did a basic 101 of organ donation – how it works, who it helps, and why it matters (link here). This week, we are going to debunk some rumors about organ donation. Everyone loves a good urban legend. But when it comes to healthcare, we need all of the help and transparency we can get. I love Twitter, so a few weeks ago, I put a poll on my page to see where my twitter community stood on organ donation. As a disclaimer – I do not consider this a true scientific poll. The pool is way too small. But “Black Twitter”* tends to be pretty honest with these types of questions and it’s a convenient way to see how normal people feel about every day issues. The results were more positive than I expected, but there are definitely some rumors worth addressing.
- Is a doctor less likely to save me? This is a common assumption. Sure you may have seen this on TV or as a version of a really twisted thought experiment, but that is not how organ donation works. Just like we said in last weeks post, under most circumstances, a doctor won’t know if you are an organ donor until you are declared brain dead. That is when the transplant process starts. There are also very specific circumstances under which death much occur for organ donation to be a option. Emergency responders and hospital staff’s primary concern is saving your life – not procuring an organ. The job of saving your life and organ procurement are actually done by separate teams anyway. So you are safe and sound.
- Is my religion okay with it? Most religions are okay with organ donation and consider it a charitable act. Here is an article put together by organdonor.gov showing what various religions believe about organ donation ( link here ). Of course, talk to your faith leaders for the final word if you are still concerned.
- Can I or my family have an open casket funeral? You can have an open casket funeral if you are an organ donor. The body is clothed in the casket so scars will not be visible. Skin donations are taken from the donors back. Rods are placed where bone donations were taken. The goal of organ donation isn’t to mutilate the body. It is to give someone else a second chance. That gift is not taken lightly and neither is the donor themselves.
- What if they remove my organs before I am dead? Remember from last weeks reading – brain death first, then organ donation. Brain death is essentially when your brain is no longer functioning and is irreparably damaged. Physicians have to confirmed the death before any of the organ donation processes start.
- The healthcare system isn’t looking out for me anyway. Why should I donate my organs. I resonate with this and hear this narrative most often among people of color. I can’t blame anyone for that mindset considering the state of healthcare in this country. However, people of color need organ transplants just as much as majority peoples. African-Americans are the largest minority group on the transplant list. In 2014, 20% of all transplant recipients were African Americans. Being an organ donor is not just about the system. It’s about providing resources for your community. To quote Organdonor.gov: “More than half of all people on the transplant waiting list are from a racial or ethnic minority group. That is because some diseases that cause end-stage organ failure are more common in these populations than in the general population. For example, African Americans, Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos are 3 times more likely than Whites to suffer from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, often as the result of high blood pressure.”
So I hope we debunked a couple of myths today! If you have any other questions, be sure to ask in the comments below or though my contact form. See you guys next week for the last installment in our organ donation series!
The Neighborhood Bioethicist
*- “Black Twitter” is a corner of Twitter where issues, dialogue, jokes, and other aspects of the black community are discussed.