Myth-busting organ donation

Children in need of organ transplants often wait a lot longer for donor organs than adults, as in most cases the organs must come from another child of similar size. Over 2,000 children are on the organ donor waiting list. In an article from the Washington Post, reporter Mary Pembleton tells the story of Noah McFall, who sadly passed away before an organ could become available. After his death, his mother donated his heart in the hopes that it could save another child’s life.

No parent ever wants to consider the possibility that their child might become an organ donor. Most parents will only learn about organ donation after tragedy strikes. Without proper guidance or education from health care professionals, misinformation and misconceptions about organ donation can hinder a parent’s decision on whether or not to register their child as an organ donor.

Parents in a 2018 Mott Poll report shared several concerns about organ donation that suggest there are misconceptions about medical care, potential suffering, and cost:

Myth: Children will not get all treatment options in a life-threatening situation if they are registered organ donors, a concern reported by about half of parents.

  • Fact: Registering a child as an organ donor will not negatively affect in any way the medical and nursing care the child will receive. In fact, potential organ donors must receive exceptional care because if the heart stops beating, some organs cannot be transplanted.

Myth: Keeping children alive for organ donation might make the child suffer more, a concern reported by fifty-three percent of parents.

  • Fact: Organs are not removed until a child is declared dead and there would be no potential for the child to experience any pain. Pembleton notes that patients undergo testing to determine brain death before any decision on donor status can be made.

Myth: There are additional costs for the organ donor and their family, a concern reported by one-third of parents.

  • Fact: There is never a cost to the donor’s family for organ donation. According to Pembleton, “Any costs accrued are passed onto the recipient family and their insurance.”


Parent misconceptions may hinder child organ donation

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Although it can be difficult for parents to even think about their child potentially becoming an organ donor, most parents in the Mott Poll realized that a major benefit would be the opportunity for their child to help save the lives of other children. “This is one extraordinary way parents who are facing unimaginable loss can help other parents potentially not have to face the same thing,” said Mott Poll co-director Gary Freed in an interview with the Washington Post.

For more information on pediatric organ donation, contact your state organ donor registry, or visit