National Donate Life Month was first celebrated in 2003 to focus on organ, eye and tissue donation. This year’s theme, “Life is a beautiful ride,” is inspired by bicycles and the circle of life. Tissue and organ donation offers a chance to make life beautiful for others. The need for donors is huge. Organdonor.gov estimates that over 113,000 people are waiting for transplants. Twenty people die every day waiting for a transplant.
Most Americans (95%) support organ donation, but less than two-thirds of Americans are signed up as donors. The waiting list has grown exponentially since 1991, but the number of donors and transplants hasn’t kept up with demand. The number of donors has remained fairly constant over the past two decades, even though awareness has increased.
What You Can Do to Make Life Possible
If you haven’t registered to be a donor, make it a priority this month. Donate Life America manages the National Donate Life Registry online. You can also add donation preferences and update your information if you need to.
You can also let your family know that you want to donate your organs and tissues at your death. Families are often hesitant to make that decision during a time of crisis. If you tell them ahead of time, they won’t have to debate the issue during an already difficult time.
Let the organ donation team determine eligibility. Don’t discount your health or age. Children, seniors and adults of all ages can donate. Even those with health conditions or illnesses may be able to donate some of their organs and tissues.
Get educated about organ donation. Your health will always come first in patient care, whether you’re an organ donor or not. Donation is only an option when the patient is declared clinically and legally dead. Organ donors go on to have open casket funerals, if that is what the family wants. The decedent’s body is treated with care and respect.
In addition to registering to donate and getting educated yourself, you can educate others. Talk to your friends and family about organ donation. If organ donation has impacted your life, share your story. Motivate others to register as donors.
Know that the donor family never has any additional costs associated with organ and tissue donation. There may be medical expenses before the death and the cost of the funeral, but donation does not add any expenses.
What About Religious Beliefs?
Most religions support organ and tissue donation, even though some organizations do have differing views within their group. Organ donation is very personal. If you are concerned about your faith and its views on organ donation, talk to your spiritual leader.
- Catholicism considers organ donation an act of charity.
- The Islamic Fiqh Council determined that organ transplantation promotes compassion and selflessness.
- Judaism encourages organ and tissue donation to save lives. There is often concern that transplantation desecrates a body, but the truth is that transplantation honors the decedent and it saves lives, thus superseding the rules of how a dead body is treated.
- Buddhists do not have an injunction against organ donation. It’s important to respect the wishes of the dying person. Organ donation is usually seen as an act of generosity.
It only takes a few minutes to register as an organ donor. One person can touch up to 75 lives through organ and tissue donation. That doesn’t count the multitude of people who are impacted through the recipient’s life.
Death is never an easy subject to talk about. Don’t think of organ and tissue donation as morbid. Consider it a legacy that follows you after your physical body ends. Let’s get more Americans registered as donors this year to make a difference.