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Organ Donation Myths
Differentiating between fact and fiction


March 2016

When it comes to organ donation, differentiating between fact and fiction can literally mean the difference between life and death. Knowing the facts and understanding the significance of such an act can determine whether a person actually becomes an organ donor.

According to Dr. Ajay Sahajpal, medical director for the abdominal transplant program at Aurora St. Lukeís Medical Center in Milwaukee, there are a number of common organ donation misconceptions that keep people from making the lifesaving decision.

"People think they are too old, so they donít consent. They donít think they are in good health, so they donít see the point. They think rich and famous people get preferential treatment," says Sahajpal.

These are all myths, according to Sahajpal. He is also the senior medical director for the Wisconsin Donor Network, which includes two in-state procurement organizations. These organizations are third-party vendors that manage the organs. One is affiliated with the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, and the other is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin.

"All hospitals in this country are mandated that they have to report these donors to the procurement organizations as part of a national act," explains Sahajpal.

Members of the procurement organizations are nurses and trained staff who work directly with the medical team and approach families regarding organ donation. In many cases, a person has signed his or her driverís license consenting to organ donation; in other instances, family consent is required.

When it comes to donation, one donor has the potential to impact more than 70 lives. This means that even if someone has a heart attack or other major organ failure, things like bone, eyes, veins and other tissue can all be used and transplanted

into others.

"The number of people added to the donor waiting list increases every year, while the number of donors remains relatively the same," says Sahajpal.

He says thereís also been a shift in the quality of donors over the last few decades. In the 1980s, when there were fewer laws regarding such things as seatbelt and gun safety, there were a lot more young, brain-dead donors. Now the majority of the donors Sahajpal sees are older and have died from heart attacks

or stroke.

His hope is that regardless of their age or health, people will talk with their families and make the decision to become a donor and give the gift of life to others.



This story ran in the March 2016 issue of: