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Your Questions Answered

There are several ways you can show that you made the choice to save lives after you’re gone. You can sign up by: 

1) Going to the DMV. Whether you’re getting your license, state ID or permit, you can sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. When you do, you’ll see a red heart on your license showing your donor status. By the way, even if you have this symbol on your license or ID, hospital and hospice teams verify your donor status directly with the registry and not with personal documentation. 

2) Signing up online. You can choose to register here. By signing up online, you can select what and how you’d like to donate. Also when you go online, you can sign up 24/7! 

3) Showing up in person. Look us up at an event in the community here. Come by to see us and we’ll answer any questions you may have and sign you up when you’re ready to make the decision. 

4) Choosing to sign up on your iPhone. Simply go to the Health app on your iPhone and complete the registration there! 

Common Questions About Donation 

If I sign up as an organ donor, won’t they just let me die to give away my organs? 

Typically, when someone is in a position to become an organ donor, they have just been gravely injured and are undergoing life-saving attempts in the emergency department of a hospital. How can you be sure that doctors, nurses and hospital support staff will do their best to save you? The fact is, your health is the TOP PRIORITY of hospital staff. Only after every effort has been exhausted in saving a patient’s life and brain death has been officially determined by the attending physician, does the totally separate organ recovery team take over. Donating is never about trading one life for another. Remember, your medical team is there to save you. 

What if they take my organs before I’m really dead? 

This is one of the most common myths we hear about donation, and it scares some people out of joining the registry. The idea is so scary that it sounds like something out of a horror movie! However, you should know the opposite is true. Organ donors are actually given more tests to determine official death than patients who haven’t agreed to organ, eye and tissue donation. Remember, brain death and coma are different things, no matter what they show us on tv. There is no recovery from brain death because, well, the brain is dead. No one can heal from that. It’s only after a patient is determined to be dead, after many extensive tests, that organ donation even becomes a possibility. 

I have diabetes/high blood pressure/coronary artery disease, can I still be a donor? 

Very few medical conditions automatically keep you from being an organ donor. Transplant decisions made after a patient’s death are based on strict medical criteria, but many people with chronic illnesses are able to save lives after their own death. Don’t disqualify yourself unnecessarily. Donors can have had diabetes, HIV, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or even a history of cancer. 

Organ donation is against my religion. 

Actually, probably not if you are a member of a major religious group in the U.S.--all of them have issued statements of support of organ, eye and tissue donation as the ultimate act of love and charity from one person to another. If you have specific questions on your faith’s views on donation, contact your minister, pastor, rabbi, priest, imam or other religious leader. For more on statements issued by major religious groups, go here. 

Being an organ donor will cost my family money, right? 

Nope. It will not. There are of course medical bills that come from everything the donor’s medical team did while trying to save their life, but the actual process of donation is covered by the organ recipient’s insurance and not by the deceased’s insurance or family members. 

What’s the difference between your registry and the national registry?

When you register here, you are registering with the North Carolina donor registry, which is maintained by Donate Life North Carolina and is the one that your name is added to when you go to the DMV. If you live out-of-state, or think you will soon, you can register at RegisterMe.org, which is the national registry. Donors who sign up on their iPhones are also added to the national registry. After a patient dies, transplant recovery teams will check both registries to see if they were a registered donor, so you only need to sign up once. In the case of multiple registrations, the most recent one is honored. 

If someone needs an organ transplant, didn’t they do something to deserve it? Why should I help if it’s their “fault?”

We’re hearing this misunderstanding more and more. Usually, people will tell us something like “if someone needs a lung transplant, they were probably a lifelong smoker that ‘knew better,’” or “if they need a liver transplant, they are an alcoholic that will just ‘ruin a new liver, too.’” Actually, you can be born needing a transplant to survive, you can have an undetected genetic issue that requires a transplant or even get accidental food poisoning that requires a kidney transplant to live. Besides that, due to health care inequities ravaging communities of color, many people may not know they have--or even have the ability to control--chronic diseases until they are in the first stages of organ failure. The biggest takeaway is that, by registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor, you are giving a stranger the possibility to live.

What about the “organ black market?” I heard that if you’re an organ donor, they’re just gonna sell them to make money.

There are lots of stories that we hear out in our communities--some are really wild, like that urban legend about someone having their kidneys taken and waking up in a bathtub full of ice. The truth is that there is no evidence of anything like that happening in the United States. The U.S. National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 made it illegal to buy or sell human organs, even your own, anywhere within the country. While organ transportation tourism (when someone in need of a transplant chooses to go to another country outside the United States to pay for an organ rather than waiting on the national transplant waiting list), it does not exist in the United States. Here, the only way to get an organ transplant is for someone else to choose to give that organ to save your life--either through deceased donation by signing up on the registry or through living donation.

Do you have a question you don’t see here? Or, have you heard something else about organ, eye and tissue donation that you’re wondering about? Talk about it with Tanise Love, our Manager of Multicultural Affairs! Send us an email at tlove@donatelifenc.org and we’ll get you an answer.