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Advantages and Disadvantages of Organ Donation

By Valerie Dansereau ; Updated July 27, 2017

Organ donation saves lives. Many organs can be donated, including liver, kidneys, pancreas, heart and lungs. Tissues can also be donated, such as skin, corneas and heart valves. Organs are used for people who have serious diseases or tissue damage such as severe burns. According to the Mayo Clinic, as of August 2010, over 100,000 people in the United States are waiting to receive an organ donation.

Organ Donation Advantages

The biggest advantage to organ donation is it saves lives that would otherwise be lost. A single organ donor has the chance to save the lives or improve the quality of life for several people. Families of organ donors may be able to correspond with the recipients of their loved one’s organs, which may give them the sense that some good came out of tragedy, particularly if the donor were very young. Those who donate the whole body often are making contributions to medical advancement, as cadavers may be used for the education of medical students. There is no cost to organ donors or their families, and the body will not be disfigured for funeral services.

Organ Donation Disadvantages

At one time, certain religions objected to organ donation. Now, most support these procedures, so in most cases that disadvantage has been removed. A disadvantage to organ donation is the donor or his family has no say in who receives the donated organs. Organs may be donated to recipients who have very different religious or political views or to people the donor may not have considered deserving. For this reason, donors have to believe all life is sacred and one recipient isn’t more valuable than another.

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Living Organ Donation

Organs are sometimes donated when the donor is still alive. This is especially true when the person needing a donation is a family member. Organs and tissues that may come from living donors include a kidney, portion of the liver, lung, intestine or pancreas. A disadvantage to living organ donation is that all surgery carries the risk of medical error, infection and even death. There is also a risk of future health problems. For instance, if you donate a kidney, there is no guarantee your remaining kidney will remain healthy throughout your life. An additional disadvantage is the donation may be rejected. If this happens, the donor may end up feeling she went through the discomfort and risk for nothing.

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