15 Organ Donation Pros and Cons

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We never know when tragedy might strike. We never known when an illness may develop. Some people may even be born with a genetic disorder or disease and require help. That is why the current system of organ donations is such an integral part of our healthcare system.

Thanks to modernizing technologies, it is possible for more people to become living donors than ever before. It is also very easy to list yourself as an organ donor should something happen to you, allowing you to save multiple lives with one final act of caring and grace.

There are some organ donation pros and cons that should be thought about if you’re wondering if becoming an organ donor is the right decision for you.

Here Are the Pros of Organ Donation

1. It is possible for one organ donor to save up to 8 lives.
More than 100,000 people just in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant right now. This includes critical organs, such as the heart, the liver, and the kidneys. When a person registers as an organ donor, it becomes possible to help save lives in ways that you may have never thought possible before.

2. It offers people a second chance at life.
People who are waiting for an organ transplant are often dependent on costly treatments to survive. A person waiting for a kidney transplant, for example, may need to visit a dialysis clinic multiple times per week to have their blood cleaned. By being able to donate an organ, it becomes possible for that individual to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle that doesn’t have the same costly procedures that need to happen on a regular basis.

3. It can offer a sense of closure.
For organ donations which occur out of tragedy, the process of organ donation can help families to find a sense of closure that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Knowing that the heart of a son, daughter, father, or mother continues to beat on in the chest of someone else can be a comforting experience. It won’t eliminate the grief that comes from losing a loved one, but it does communicate the idea that their loss is not in vain. Letting someone continue with their life is a gift that really does keep on giving.

4. It is possible to help someone right now.
If someone is a direct match for an individual on the organ transplant list, then it is possible to help a person in need right now. You can donate certain organs while you are still alive. Living donations right now include a kidney, portions of the liver, portions of the lung or pancreas, and some intestinal tissues as well. If you are not comfortable with this type of living donation, then consider donating blood.

5. There are no age restrictions on being an organ donor.
Anyone can be an organ donor, including children. The only restrictions in place are related to the age of certain organs for some individuals and that children under the age of 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian to provide a donation.

6. It allows for the potential of medical research advances.
Organ donation may not always be possible to help someone else live a normal life, but that doesn’t completely exclude the ability to donate to help others. People can make donation to benefit science and medical research. This may include donating a specific organ, such as a heart or their brain. It can even include donating their entire body. For those who may have a rare disease or genetic condition, a donation such as this offers the potential of saving more lives through the knowledge gained.

7. Living donations are free.
If you are approved as a match and make a living donation for someone in need, then the medical procedure and recovery needs you have are free of charge. The costs related to you are usually not passed on to the organ recipient either, as many physicians will provide their services free of charge. Even if there are recovery complications, your medical costs are covered.

8. More organ transplants are happening today than ever before.
In 2016, there were more than 33,500 organ transplants that occurred in the United States. That set a new record for completed transplants. Thanks to improvements in medical procedures and technology innovations, there has been a 20% increase in successful transplants from 2012-2016. With more than 8,000 transplants completed in the first quarter of 2017, that is a trend which looks to be continuing.

Here Are the Cons of Organ Donation

1. It can prolong the grieving period of a family.
For an organ donation to be successful, it may be necessary to keep a loved one on life support for an extended period. This helps to keep the tissues which will be donated in a healthy state. Organ donations do not occur unless a person is declared to be brain dead, but the process of life support can make it feel like a loved one is still alive. When there is the presence of life, there is often hope, and having that hope can make the grief even stronger.

2. There is not always a choice for the donation.
Many families do not have a choice in who gets the organs that are being donated by a loved one through tragedy. They are simply given to the person who is on the organ donation list who is a match and in the direst of need. This means someone of a different faith, a different political position, or different culture may receive the organ and that can be difficult for some families to accept. Living donations are often matched to other family members, while direct matches for humanitarian purposes are also possible, so this key point doesn’t always apply.

3. Not everyone can become an organ donor.
Although many people can become an organ donor through a simple authorization process, not everyone is eligible. There are age-related restrictions on certain organs. You cannot be over 80 years old to make a cornea donation and must be younger than 60 to donate heart valves or tendons. People with certain existing medical conditions, such as being HIV-positive, having metastasized cancer in the last 12 months, or being diagnosed with Creuzfeldt-Jacob Disease will also prevent a donation.

4. Organ donations can lead to other health problems.
To become a living donor, a surgery or medical procedure is required. Any surgery offers a risk to the person that may include death. Other health problems can develop after a surgery that requires a lifestyle change. People who donate bone marrow, for example, may be restricted in the future activities for a lifetime. Those who donate a kidney may be prohibited from consuming alcohol. For those who receive an organ, there is a 10% risk of diabetes development.

5. Not every organ which is donated will be accepted.
Organ rejection is a very real possibility for those who receive a transplant. Even when there is a direct match, there is always the chance that the transplant will be rejected. Those who receive a transplant will often be required to take immunosuppressant medications for the rest of their lives to reduce the chances of this issue from occurring.

6. Employers do not always have leave policies for living donations.
Only 12 states in the US currently have organ or bone marrow donor leave policies that impact private sector employees. Federal government employees receive 30 days of paid leave for an organ donation and 7 days of paid leave for a bone marrow donation that is over and above the employee’s sick and annual leave. Most states have similar donor leave laws for state employees, but some offer the 30 days of leave unpaid.

7. Organ transplants are incredibly expensive.
In the United States, the cost of a liver transplant is $71,000, plus an additional $25,000 for every 30 days of care pre-transplant. For those who need a heart-lung transplant, the cost is $130,000, with an additional $56,000 for every 30 days of care pre-transplant. For many organ recipients, their total care cost exceeds $1 million, with heart-lung transplant recipients facing a cost of $2.3 million. Part of this cost is due to the wait time to receive an organ transplant. For some organs, the average wait time can be 3-5 years in some regions of the United States.

The pros and cons of organ donation show that you can get involved in some way right now. You can register to become an organ donor. You can register your children. You can also be tested to see if you could become a living donor for someone who is in need right now. Someone is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, on average, in the United States. Since one organ donor can save up to 8 lives, the time to act is now.