Why NOT Donate Life?

As you surely know by now, April is National Donate Life Month. The vast majority of my posts, naturally, are about living donation and transplant and kidneys. I haven’t written much about the more well known topic of organ donation—that is, after death. It’s one of those subjects that make some people uncomfortable (I was one of them, when I was young).

That said, I’m going to give it a try anyway and hope that you’ll keep reading. No matter what I’m writing about, you may have noticed by now, I prefer a light touch and maybe go for a smile or two. So I’m not going to berate anyone who’s not already signed up to be a donor. And I’m not going to drone on about how important it is and how it’s our duty to our community yada yada. You already know that, right? (If not, I might note that more than 100,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving organ in this country—most of them for a kidney—and about 17 people die each day because they didn’t get one in time.)

So what am I going to do here? I’m just going to ask a few simple questions:

1-What percentage of people in this country do you suppose die in a way that even makes it possible for their organs to be donated?

2-If a registered organ donor is dying in a hospital, do you imagine that the doctors and nurses will throw in the towel that much sooner?

3-Are you afraid you might not be “completely dead” when they get ready to recover your organs?


  1. Less than 1% (If you’re stunned by that news, you’re not alone. Years ago my guess would have been less than half, but maybe 20% or 30%, but I honestly had no idea.) In other words, the pool is very small.
  2. First of all, they don’t even know—or care—whether you’re a donor or not. Their only concern is saving you, their patient (remember “first, do no harm”?). Secondly, transplant teams don’t get involved until after death is pronounced. In fact, most deceased donors actually come from hospitals that don’t even have transplant centers.
  3. Lots of tests are done—even more than usual–to make absolutely sure that someone is in fact dead.

So, if you’ve read this far, thank you! If you weren’t already signed up, I hope this post has given you something to think about and maybe you’ll go to organdonor.gov–or any of a dozen or more sites (don’t wait to renew your driver’s license!)–to register. If you’re already registered, please share this post with others who may not be or who might know someone who would like to share it.

For related posts, resources, and information on The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.

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