Most people choose to be an organ donor out of a desire to help others, especially when organ donation increases the life span or improves the quality of life of a close relative or friend. While the benefits of organ donation are obvious for the recipient, most people don't realize there are also benefits of being an organ donor and to the donor's family.
How the Organ Recipient Benefits
Since the recipient of the new organ had the most to lose if a donor wasn't found, he is the one to benefit the most from organ donation. There are several ways in which a new organ can enhance the recipient's life.
Increased Life Span
It's probably clear that an increased life span is one of the major benefits of organ donation. Some recipients are kept alive through artificial means like dialysis, ventilators or ventricular devices while they are waiting for a new organ. Without the transplant, they would die. With the transplant, they can live for many more years.
Improved Quality of Life
Even for a recipient who isn't at risk of death, an organ transplant provides a better quality of life. For example, a transplant may allow someone to live medication-free for the first time since being diagnosed. Organ donation can allow an individual to live without the long-term, costly treatments that have been necessary to have a high quality of life. There are also ways certain recipients benefit from specific types of donations:
- Eye and tissue donation can allow someone to see again.
- Bone donation can allow someone to live pain-free.
- Bone marrow transplants may be the only hope for children with leukemia and other deadly diseases.
- Heart valve transplants are used for babies, who are born with heart defects and looking at multiple surgeries without a transplant.
Less Expensive Than Treatment
While some transplants are very expensive, the reality is that other transplants - especially kidney transplants - are much cheaper than the dialysis required to keep the patient alive. Not only that but a transplant increases the patient's life expectancy by quite a few years since dialysis is not a permanent solution to kidney failure.
How Many People Can Benefit From Organ Donation?
As of last year around 114,000 people were on the transplant list for an organ donation in the United States alone. One deceased donor can save about eight lives, with tissue donation able to impact up to 50 lives. This year alone, more than 24,000 people received organ transplants from about 11,600 donors.
Benefits for the Donor
The assumption that an individual chooses to become an organ donor because it makes them feel good is true. This is a major reason (and benefit) of choosing to donate. However, there are other benefits to the donor and donor's family that may not be as obvious.
Donation Helps the Grieving Process
While a family is grieving the loss of their loved one, there is also comfort in knowing that loss wasn't in vain, and is helping someone else to live. Thinking about the positive effect your loved one had on so many people can be comforting in the midst of your grief.
Contributing to Medical Research
Many people feel that they have a responsibility to their fellow humans to help them in any way they can. Organ donation can be the ultimate expression of this. For donors who choose to donate their whole body, parts that cannot be used directly in a patient can be used in medical research facilities to help the next generation of transplant recipients. Nothing goes wasted.
Powerful Impact and Legacy
Donor and recipient stories are moving. From a mother who's son lived on in nine other people to the minister who gave a long time friend a kidney, you can see that organ and tissue donation changes real people's lives. These benefits go beyond just the recipient and the donor to everyone that the recipient and donor have in their lives, as well. Donating organ tissue and organs can make a direct difference in the lives of up to 80 people, according to Donate Life, a nonprofit for organ donation. That is a powerful legacy.
You do not have to wait until you have passed to become a donor. Most commonly, living donors donate a kidney. However, living donors can also donate part of a liver or lung, and sometimes even part of the pancreas or intestine. There are special benefits to these types of donations.
Organ donation doesn't only occur after death. You can choose to donate an organ or part of an organ while you are still alive. This is called a living donation. Although this is most often done to help a family member or friend, some people choose to donate to a stranger. There are special benefits to the recipient of a living donation:
- The transplant can happen much sooner if the donor is a relative for a friend.
- The surgery can be scheduled keeping the convenience of the donor and the best health of the recipient in mind.
- Because the organ is coming from a living donor and, therefore, transplanted immediately, the recipient's recovery is much quicker.
- Because the organ is transplanted immediately, the organ tends to work fully more quickly, reducing the risk of organ failure once transplanted into the recipient.
Benefits to Donors
There are also unique benefits to being a living donor:
- If you donate to someone you know, you will get to see firsthand the effects of your donation. If you donate to a stranger, living donors frequently meet the recipients of donations (although not necessarily the recipient of their donation), so you will still have a profound understanding of the how the gift of your donation impacted the life of the recipient.
- You are put at the top of the transplant list. Since some living kidney donors can have a slightly higher risk of developing kidney disease later in life, a policy has been established stating that if someone is a past donor and needs a transplant, they are moved to the top of the national transplant list.
Donating Organs After Death
Donate Life shares that 58 percent of Americans are registered donors. If you choose to become an organ donor after you've passed away, you will be able to donate your:
- Small Intestine
- Heart Valves
Becoming a Donor
If you've decided that you want to become a donor, or if you still have some concerns, there are resources:
- Go to organdonor.gov and pick your state from the drop-down menu on the top. You'll then be taken to your state's organ donor webpage
- Designate your choice on your driver's license. When you renew your driver's license, request that your status as an organ donor be put on your driver's license.
Make sure that you inform your family and friends of your choice so that there is no confusion in the midst of an emergency. With organ donation, you have the ability to save, prolong, and improve the quality of others' lives. No doubt, the benefits of organ donation are numerous for the recipient and the donor alike.