Facts and Myths about Organ Donation

Last Updated January 12th, 2023


Over 104,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. This is the lowest it has been since 2009. The list topped at 124,000 at its height in 2014.

  • The US saw a 7.5% increase in deceased donors last year- from 13,863 in 2021 to 14,903 in 2022
  • Another name is added to the national transplant waiting list every 9 minutes.
  • On average, 16 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
  • One deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and can save and enhance more than 75 lives through the lifesaving and healing gift of tissue donation.
  • Organ recipients are selected based primarily on medical need, location and compatibility.
  • Over 850,000 transplants have occurred in the U.S. since 1988.
  • Organs that can be donated after death are the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, small intestines, hands, face and uterus. Tissues include corneas, skin, middle ear veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments, bones, and cartilage.
  • The cornea is the most commonly transplanted tissue. More than 44,000 corneal transplants take place each year in the United States.
  • A healthy person can become a ‘living donor’ by donating a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, pancreas, uterus, blood, or bone marrow.
  • About 6,000 living donations occur each year. One in three donors are not biologically related to the recipient.
  • The buying and selling of human organs is not allowed for transplants in America, but it is allowed for research purposes.
  • In most countries, it is illegal to buy and sell human organs for transplants, but international black markets for organs are growing in response to the increased demand around the world. Learn more about Transplant Tourism.
  • Liver and kidney disease kills over 96,000 each year, more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
  • 1 in 7 or 37 million Americans have kidney disease – and most don’t even know it.
  • Organ disease is a massive public health issue, and organ transplantation can be a lifesaving treatment option. There are nearly as many people dying per year of organ disease as are on the transplant waiting list currently!

MYTHS: Deceased Donation

There are certain things that can keep me from being an organ donor such as age, illness or physical defects.

Each person’s medical condition is evaluated at the time of their death to determine what organs and tissues are viable for donation. People living with chronic diseases or those who have a history of cancer or other serious diseases are still encouraged to join the donor registry.

If doctors know that I am registered to be an organ or tissue donor, they won’t work as hard to save my life.

The first priority of a medical professional is to save lives when sick or injured people come to the hospital. Organ and tissue donation isn’t even considered or discussed until after death is declared.

Typically, doctors and nurses involved in a person’s care before death are not involved in the recovery or transplantation of donated corneas, organs or tissues.

If you are rich or a celebrity, you can move up the waiting list more quickly.

Severity of illness, time spent waiting, blood type and match potential are the factors that determine your place on the waiting list. A patient’s income, race or social status are never taken into account in the allocation process. Click here for more details about organ allocation by organ type.

After donating an organ or tissue, a closed casket funeral is the only option.

Organ procurement organizations treat each donor with the utmost respect and dignity, allowing a donor’s body to be viewed in an open casket funeral.

My religion doesn’t support organ and tissue donation.

Most major religions support organ and tissue donation. Typically, religions view organ and tissue donation as acts of charity and goodwill. Donor Alliance urges you to discuss organ and tissue donation with your spiritual advisor if you have concerns on this issue.

My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Costs associated with recovering and processing organs and tissues for transplant are never passed on to the donor family. The family may be expected to pay for medical expenses incurred before death is declared and for expenses involving funeral arrangements.