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Health & Exercise Forum

Organ Donation Part 2: Common Questions Surrounding Organ Donation

Dec 25, 2017
Michael Morgan, MD3

Michael Morgan, MD3

This column is a monthly feature of “Health & Exercise Forum” in association with the students and faculty of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (formerly The Commonwealth Medical College).

This Holiday Season Give the Gift of Life! Register to be an organ donor

Organ Donation – and ties to NEPA: Part 2 of 2


Michael Morgan is a 3rd year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He attended Scranton Prep and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh earning a Bachelor of Science in Finance with minors in Chemistry and Economics. Although he is exploring all future options in clinical rotations, he is currently interested in pursuing a career in surgery or anesthesia. He plans on practicing in the Scranton area upon the completion of his training. Interests include relaxing with family and friends, traveling, and clinical research.
Mike is a member of the Cody Barrasse Memorial Foundation, American Medical Association and American College of Emergency Physicians.

Part 2: The Most Common Questions that Surround Organ Donation in 2017

This is the season of giving. Finding the right gift in a land of plenty can be challenging for those fortunate enough to be well-fed and clothed. While there may be many wants and needs we have this holiday season, consider a different kind of gift...GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE! BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR!

Last week we briefly reviewed the history of organ donation and its local ties to NEPA. Because he was a donor, Cody Barrasse forever changed the lives of nine strangers and their families. Cody, a Penn State student and Scranton Prep alum, tragically passed away following a head injury sustained after being struck by a car as a pedestrian in Pittsburgh in 2013. Cody’s legacy lives on through those who were fortunate enough to have known him and uniquely through those who had received his vital organs. Therefore, the importance of organ donation may vary significantly based one’s personal experience and belief system. For a variety of reasons, some are advocates and some are against. For others, the thought of organ donation is just another question in between them and the door at the Department of Motor Vehicles. In reality, it is a significant life altering decision that can be potentially experienced through someone else, in a positive way!

In 1968, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act established the Uniform Donor Card as a legal document for anyone 18 years or older to legally donate his or her organs upon death. Despite nearly 50 years of medical triumphs, the concept of organ donation still carries a multitude of myths and misconceptions. It can be a taboo topic. Some believe that the label ‘organ donor’ on an ID means that in an emergent situation, a patient will receive subpar care so that doctors can harvest their organs. This is completely false. Upon taking the Hippocratic Oath at medical school graduation, the patient’s wellbeing is reaffirmed as the physician’s number one priority. Medical personnel will exhaust every avenue in order to save a patient’s life. The medical team working in the emergency room is entirely separate from the group of doctors involved in recovering organs and tissues. The conversation of organ donor status begins only when death is declared and it is confirmed that nothing else can be done for the patient. By dispelling some of the most common misconceptions and by making credible resources available, the hope is that informed decisions can be made and that others can be positively impacted when the unexpected strikes. Here are some of the more common questions surrounding organ donation today:

1. Does organ donation change the appearance of my body? Will I still be able to have a traditional viewing and funeral?
Organ and tissue donation does not disfigure the body. The procedure to preserve and harvest organs is a timely process, it does not interfere with funeral arrangements.

2. Am I too old to register to become an organ donor?
There is no age limit for donation. A potential donor’s organs are evaluated at the time of death to determine their suitability for donation. Anyone interested in becoming an organ donor should indicate their wish on their driver’s license and inform their family that they wish to donate.

3. Do rich and famous people get organs first?
No. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) matches organs and recipients by weight, height, blood type, followed by medical urgency and time on the waiting list.

4. Is organ donation approved by my religion?
Organ and tissue donation is approved by all major religions in the United States. For many, it is considered a gift – a final act of charity. However, specific concerns or questions should be addressed with your religious advisor.

5. Can I sell my organs?
No, not really. The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507) made the buying and selling of organs and tissues illegal in 1984. However, the selling of plasma, a component of blood, is legal. Blood is technically an organ so I’d presume that selling one of its components counts. In Pennsylvania, is legal to “donate” plasma up to two times a week. Each time a blood bank will pay approximately $30 for the specimen.

Medical Contributor: Linda Barrasse, MD

For more information or to learn how you can become more involved in organ donation, please visit

Read Part 1 of this series here.


Organ Donation

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (formerly The Commowealth Medical College).