Give the Gift of Life

Photo courtesy of Life Goes On

Life Goes On, Illinois Secretary of State

Photo courtesy of Life Goes On

Organ donation is a selfless gift to someone whose life would greatly benefit if received. For some people, the need for organ transplantation is a life-or-death situation; for others, it would significantly improve their quality of life. Organ donation affects not only the patient receiving it but also the recipient’s family members, friends, and their community.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there are over 116,000 people in need of organs in the United States, and it grows daily. Approximately 20 people die per day waiting for organs, 8,000 annually, which could be much lower if more people were willing to sign up to donate. Today, more than 40,000 transplants occur annually, but as you can see, it is not enough. According to, 95% of people agree that organ donation is important; however, only an average of 50-60% of people are registered to donate.

Donating organs is a selfless act that can affect thousands of children, women, and men from all races and ethnicities. One donation can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of 75 more with tissue donation. Organs that save a life include the heart, lungs, liver, and small intestines. Organs and tissue that greatly enhance a person’s quality of life are kidneys, pancreas and islets, skin, corneas, heart valves, bones, veins, tendons, and ligaments. The transplanted kidney can free a person from receiving dialysis three days a week, a time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting treatment. It also enhances survival compared to remaining on dialysis. Corneas give the gift of sight, and a burn victim benefits from a skin donation.

Organ donations are not limited to donations from deceased persons. Living donors make up about 40% of organs and tissue donated. Living donors can donate a single kidney, a portion

of the liver (it grows back), a section of the lung, bone marrow, and blood products. Donations can be for family or friends or given to strangers through an altruistic act of kindness.

The Mayo Clinic addresses some myths that may preclude people from donating after death, include fear of a decrease in effort by the healthcare team to save the patient’s life, inaccurate religious assumptions that there is a cost to donate, the body will be used and discarded, and thoughts of being too old or too young. The medical team caring for the patient during life is separate and distinct from the organ procurement organization. The medical team’s efforts and goal are to save a life. Organ donation is only considered once the patient is medically determined to be brain dead or that further care is futile. Many religions support organ donation calling it the final act of love and generosity to fellow human beings. The is no cost to donate. The body is treated with the utmost respect due to the unselfish nature of the act. Bodies are then delivered to the final destination, including an open casket if requested. People cannot assume they are too old, too young, or limited by past medical conditions to donate.

I have worked in the hospital setting as a nurse for many years. In doing so, I have witnessed many deaths and watched the struggle of the family members trying to decide if they should donate the deceased’s organs. I encourage you and your family to make that decision now so everyone is aware and that burden of that choice does not rest on your family during a time of deep sorrow.

Family members whose loved ones have donated organs after death testify that the donation was a rewarding, positive experience. It helped the grieving process to know that someone else’s life was saved or improved. Signing up to donate is a legally binding directive that will be honored at the time of death if feasible. Nonetheless, it is helpful to the health care system and your family to have discussed this decision with them ahead of time. It saves

precious time from when the process begins to the time of transplant and reduces anguish from an otherwise difficult, emotional, and stressful situation.

For more information, to read testimonials, and to sign up, you can look up,, or your local Department of Motor Vehicle website. Register to donate through your state of residence in the donor registry.




Mayo Clinic staff. (2021, May 15). Organ donation: Don’t let these myths confuse you. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 3, 2022, from

National data. (2022, August 29). Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Retrieved September 3, 2022, from

Organ donation faq. (2022, March). Health resources and service administratin. Retrieved September 3, 2022, from

Why is organ donation important? (2022, March 22). Integris Health. Retrieved September 3, 2022, from