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Organ Donation FAQ

Table of Contents

  1. What should I do if I want to donate my organs and tissues?
  2. What are the top ten misconceptions regarding organ donation?
  3. What kinds of tissues can be donated?
  4. What if I want to donate NOW and not after my death?
  5. Can I sell my kidney?
  6. Tell me about Brain Death?
  7. Is there any truth to the so-called "Stolen-Kidney Myth" wherein a man is supposed to have been drugged by a beautiful woman and later wakes up in a motel room with one of his kidneys removed?

What should I do if I want to donate my organs and tissues?

Talk about it with your family.  The single most important way to "register" as a donor is to "register" your wishes with your family so they will know your decision.  Talk especially to the person who will have the final say when consenting to the doctors for the harvesting of your organs (In decreasing order of importance: legal wife, parent, legitimate adult offspring, sibling)

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What are the top ten myths regarding organ donation?

  1. Myth: My body will be mutilated when my organs are harvested.
    Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, in a routine operation similar to gallbladder or appendix
    removal. Normal funeral arrangements are possible.
  2. Myth: My family would be expected to pay for donating my organs.
    Fact: A donor's family is not charged for donation. If a family believes it has been billed incorrectly,
    the family immediately should contact its local organ procurement organization.
  3. Myth: I might want to donate one organ, but I do not want to donate everything.
    Fact: You may specify what organs you want donated. Your wishes will be followed.
  4. Myth: If I am in an accident and the hospital knows that I want to be a donor, the doctors will
    not try to save my life.
    Fact: The medical team treating you is separate from the transplant team. HOPE  is not notified until all lifesaving efforts have failed and death has been
    determined. HOPE does not notify the transplant team until your family has consented to
  5. Myth: I am not the right age for donation.
    Fact: Organs may be donated from someone as young as a newborn. Age limits for organ donation
    no longer exist; however, the general age limit for tissue donation is 70.
  6. Myth: If I donate, I would worry that the recipient and/or the recipient's family would discover
    my identity and cause more grief for my family.
    Fact: Information about the donor is released by HOPE to the recipients only if the family that
    donated requests that it be provided.
  7. Myth: My religion does not support donation.
    Fact: All organized religions support donation, typically considering it a generous act that is the
    individual's choice.
  8. Myth: Only heart, liver and kidneys can be transplanted.
    Fact: The pancreas, lungs, small and large intestines, and the stomach also can be transplanted.
  9. Myth: Wealthy people are the only people who receive transplants.
    Fact: Anyone requiring a transplant is eligible for one. Arrangements can be made with the transplant
    hospital for individuals requiring financial assistance.
  10. Myth: I have a history of medical illness. You would not want my organs or tissues.
    Fact: At the time of death, HOPE will review medical and social histories to determine donor
    suitability on a case-by-case basis.
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What kind of tissues can be transplanted?

Currently transplanted human tissues include bone, corneas, skin, heart valves, veins, cartilage and other connective tissues. These tissues can be used to treat patients suffering from congenital defects, blindness, visual impairment, trauma, burns, dental defects, arthritis, cancer, vascular and heart disease. Many heart valves are used to treat children with congenital defects of their own heart valves.

Tissue transplantation can be lifesaving as in the case of serious burn injury (skin grafts) or heart valve replacement. More often, however, tissue transplantation is life-enhancing. Giving the gift of sight to someone who would otherwise be blind or repairing a bone injured due to trauma or disease are life-enhancing benefits of tissue transplantation.

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What if I want to donate NOW and not after my death?

  1. Blood - Blood donors are always needed. Did you know that you can safely donate blood every 8 weeks?  In the Philippines, contact the Philippine National Red Cross at 527-8392, 527-8393, 527-8384, 527-8394, 530-0049, 527-3595 for Metro Manila.  You can also donate at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute's Blood Bank at 924-3601 to 19.
  2. Bone - If you are going to have total hip replacement surgery, you can donate the bone that is going to have to be removed from your body.  To donate bone, you can call the Philippine General Hospital Bone Bank at 521-8450.
  3. Bone Marrow - Did you know that your healthy bone marrow could save a life?  To inquire about Bone Marrow donation, call the HOPE office at 924-0680.
  4. Kidney, Partial Liver, and Partial Lung Donation - Relatives, spouses, friends and others may be considered as potential living donors to people with whom they have a "significant emotional tie." If you are close to someone who needs a kidney, lung, or liver transplant and would like to be considered as a donor, contact that person's transplant center to see if it might be possible to donate. If you are considering living donation, please see TransWeb's FAQ on living kidney donation or some US statistics and information on living liver donation.

    At this time, there is no mechanism for living kidney donors who simply want to donate a kidney, but don't have any specific recipient in mind. We encourage you to channel your generosity into the following actions that can save many lives:

         make sure your family knows that you would like to donate your organs and tissues upon death
         donate blood whenever possible
         consider joining a bone marrow donor registry

    No, you can't sell your kidney.
  5. Skin - If you are having excess skin removed (due to a drastic loss of weight), you may have considered donating the excess skin to a skin bank. Unfortunately, this is not possible.
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Can I sell my kidney?

Paid donation is illegal in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and all of Europe. In India, paid organ donation has been tolerated in the past, but the government there has passed a resolution intended to eliminate the practice. To date, no reputable organization pays for human organs anywhere in the world. Although paid donation may occur in some parts of the world, the lack of accountability of the unscrupulous individuals that engage in this practice means that it is an unsafe to either donate a kidney through such an organization, or purchase a kidney in this way.

In the Philippines, there is currently no law that either allows or prohibits the practice of selling organs but most medical professionals especially the transplant surgeons and urologists find this practice unethical and distasteful.  Although it may happen in this country, it does so without the knowledge of the doctors since this is a private deal between the donor and the recipient who pass the donor out as a "distant cousin".

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Tell me about Brain Death?

Brain Death is the complete cessation of brain functions including the brain stem.   The heart may be functioning as well as the lungs with support, however the brain has been irreversibly damaged.  This state is called Brain Death and is legally and medically equivalent to clinical death.  For more information you can find an excellent treatise at http://www.transweb.org/donation_folder/b_death.html.

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Is there any truth to the so-called "Stolen-Kidney Myth" wherein a man is supposed to have been drugged by a beautiful woman and later wakes up in a motel room with one of his kidneys removed?

The original story comes from a "friend of a friend/cousin/neighbor" who is supposed to have walked into a bar and met an extremely beautiful girl who allows herself to be seduced by the friend.  After a few drinks they go to a nearby hotel/motel.   The next thing he remembers is waking up in a bathtub, filled with ice and a fresh incision scar on his back.  Consulting his doctor he finds out that one of his kidneys had been removed and is warned that there is a syndicate specializing in stealing kidneys from healthy looking people, drugging them and performing the surgery in a hotel/motel room.  The kidneys are then sold to wealthy people who need the organ

This story is actually a classic "urban legend", the sort of folklore that is passed by word of mouth, but all attempts to trace the source are confounded.  There are several reasons why this story is highly unlikely:

  1. A donor nephrectomy operation is a very delicate and demanding procedure since unlike a simple nephrectomy wherein you remove a sick kidney, in the former the kidney that you remove has to be able to function when transplanted, thus the procedure emphasizes delicate tissue handling as well as maintaining the blood supply and length for easy transplantation.  These issues are difficult enough in a modern operating theatre, much less a motel room where transporting surgical lights, breakable surgical table drapes, instruments, anesthesia machines, vital signs monitors as well as catheters, sutures, and other consumables without anyone seeing them is impossible.
  2. Virtually no one uses ice anymore to take care of fresh surgical wounds.
  3. Unless it is done to a LOT of victims, it is difficult to find a good match for the relatively small number of wealthy recipients.

I have actually read the story in a book named "The Big Book of Urban Legends" by Jan Harold Brunvand, et al (Paradox press 1995)

For more information on this you can browse at http://www.unos.org/hoax_pr.htm or http://www.unos.org/heist_pr.htm.

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Copyright 1999, Human Organ Preservation Effort, Philippines
All Rights Reserved

Incept Date: January 10, 1997      Updated:August 14, 1999