Ted went to renew his driver’s license. At 70, he had to renew in person and take an eye test. As he was completing his paperwork, the clerk said, “Would you like to be an organ donor?” Ted laughed. “My organs are too old for that!” Was he right?
April is National Donate Life Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Organ Donation and Transplantation website (www.organdonor.gov), this event “celebrates the tremendous generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow and blood donors, and encourages others to follow their fine example.”
Organ donation is a way to give someone else a chance at life even when our own life is over. Today, lives are saved or improved by transplants of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, corneas and other organs and tissues. Today, more than 119,000 people in America are waiting for a transplant. Each day, 22 of them die. And while 95 percent of Americans believe in organ donation, fewer than half have actually signed up to be a donor.
Who can be an organ donor?
We often read heartwarming stories of parents who have lost an infant or young child, yet generously save the life of another child through organ donation. They say that though their child’s life was brief, their choice provided some comfort in their saddest time.
But what about people who have led a long life? There’s a myth that although seniors can be good candidates for organ transplantation, their organs are too old to be donated. Not true in most cases, say experts from the Division of Transplantation. They report that there’s no age reason not to become an organ donor. People in their 60s, 70s and even beyond have been organ donors. According to Organdonor.gov, the oldest organ donor on record was 92 years old. His liver saved the life of a 68-year-old woman. And in 2015, 20 percent of organ donors were older than 65.
Learn how to become an organ donor
- The first step is to think about whether you’d like to be an organ donor.
- The next step is to consent to be a donor by registering in your state.
- The final step – and this is very important – is to discuss your decision with your family. Make your wishes known to those closest to you. You can also state your wishes regarding organ donation in your living will or other advance directive.
What about living donation?
Some organs and tissues can be donated while the donor is still alive, such as a kidney, part of the liver, and blood and bone marrow. Many people continue to give blood well into their later years, but donation of organs is relatively rare after the age of 60.