Busting the myths about tissue donation

Organ and tissue donation is crucial in South Africa, but many of us don’t know the facts about tissue donation.


Any one of us has the potential to save a life – all it takes is registering as an organ and tissue donor. But, while the process of registering to become an organ and tissue donor is simple, a lot of us are held back by misconceptions. For example, did you know that while most tissue donation occurs after death, some tissue can be donated while you’re still alive? People undergoing hip replacement surgery are eligible to donate the hip bone removed during the procedure – and that bone can be used for patients who need bone tissue to help reduce pain and improve movement.

But first, what is tissue donation?

Tissue donation refers to the donation of human tissue (such as skin, bone, heart valves, and corneas) that is passed on to patients who need it. One donation alone can save or better the lives of more than 65 people, making tissue donation a powerful and impactful act of giving.

Demystifying the process of donation for those of us who may unknowingly believe some of the myths surrounding it, is especially important as empowering more people to register as donors mean empowering more people to save lives.

Here are five of the most common ‘myths’ about organ and tissue donation unpacked.


1. Registered donors receive inadequate medical care in hospitals.

This is a common misconception – according to our medical director, Dr Moji Mogari, “Medical professionals are legally and ethically obliged to do everything they can to save a life. Tissue donation is only considered when the person has been declared dead so there can be no
conflict of interest.”

2. Only some people qualify to register as organ and tissue donors.

Anyone can register to be a donor. It is simple, free and quick to register as an organ and tissue donor and no medical examination is required. Simply visit www.vitanova.org.za and complete the quick registration form. A representative of the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF)
will contact you to complete the registration and answer any questions.

3. Common health conditions exclude you from becoming a donor.

While age and some medical conditions may exclude you from donating at the time of death, very few conditions will immediately rule you out from donating organs and tissue. For example, common health problems in South Africa like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and alcohol or drug abuse do not exclude you from becoming a donor.

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 80, who does not have cancer or an infectious disease such as hepatitis, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS, is a potential donor.

4. Your family will be responsible for the process and cost of donation after you die.

Apart from making the decision to donate and signing the necessary consent form, your family will not have to do anything else for the donation and there is no cost to them. Funeral arrangements remain the responsibility of the family and will not be delayed in any way.

5. My religion prohibits me from donating my organs and tissue.

Most religions consider organ and tissue donation an act of generosity and compassion. Ultimately, the decision to donate is up to the donor or next of kin. Dr Mogari says, “We always encourage donors to talk to their religious leaders for further clarity and peace of mind about the decision to donate.”

If you want to know more about how to become a tissue donor, please click here.

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