“That’s an exponential benefit, which builds a good case for why more people should be encouraged to consent to tissue donation,” says Dr Moji Mogari, Medical Director at Bone SA. But he goes on to explain that it is also a sensitive topic steeped in diverse ethics, opinions and morality. “There are a number of myths that are perpetuated about tissue donation and this misunderstanding contributes to our general fear and hesitation around consenting to tissue donation.” But knowledge dispels fear, and Mogari believes that debunking some of the more common myths about tissue donation is an important step towards changing attitudes. Significantly, fewer reasons for exclusion as a tissue donor allows the majority of people who die to help others through tissue donation – possibly the simplest way to be a real hero and leave a legacy.”
Not all donations come from people who have died either. Living donors about to undergo hip replacements, can also help by donating the hip bone which is removed during this procedure.
Five of the most common myths around tissue donation are unpacked below.
Myth 1: Tissue donors receive subpar care in emergency situations
Fact: This is a very common misconception and one that Bone SA absolutely disputes. “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,” Mogari says.
Myth 2: My age excludes me from becoming a tissue donor
Fact: Any person under the age of 75 who is in good general health and clear of cancer and serious transmittable disease is a suitable tissue donor.
Myth 3: I have a few health conditions so this disqualifies me from becoming an organ and tissue donor
Fact: While some medical conditions will rule out your ability to be an organ donor, very few medical conditions automatically disqualify an individual from donating tissue. Most of the common health problems suffered by South Africans like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and alcohol and drug abuse does not preclude them from tissue donation. “Bone SA evaluates each donation on its own merits and suitability to ensure the safest transplant possible, which means only using the healthiest tissue in each case,” Mogari says.
Myth 4: My family will have to carry the cost if I elect to donate my tissue
Fact: Any costs associated with tissue donation or transplantation are carried by the transplant recipient and/or the facility at which the procedure is performed, with no additional cost to the donor, the medical aid or estate.
Myth 5: My religion does not allow for tissue donation
Fact: Most major religions consider tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity, and ultimately, the decision of the individual donor. “We always encourage donors to talk to their religious leaders for further clarity and peace of mind about the decision to donate,” Mogari says.
It’s important for those considering tissue donation to discuss their wishes with their next-of-kin so that their wishes can be carried out when the time comes. “So many donors say to us that the reason they do it is to leave a lasting legacy, one that can significantly impact the quality of life for many,” Mogari concludes.
To register as an organ and tissue donor with the Organ Donor Foundation, simply visit www.odf.org.za, complete the Quick Registration online form and submit.