Malaysia’s organ donation pledger count stands at 200,796 as of 2012. This amounts to less than 1% of the population.
An act as noble as passing on your life baton when you’ve moved on would probably score you many saint points, but why are there so few donors? With Malaysians being mostly generous people (remember all the shared keropok lekor at work?), what’s stopping us?
The HealthWorks team seeks to separate fact from fiction for a more informed approach to organ donation. Here are the myths, debunked.
Myth 1: Organ donation is against my religion
Fact: All the major religions in Malaysia actually advocate for organ donation as a generous act that benefit people. This includes Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. If you’re still unsure, you can always consult your religious advisor or spiritual leader.
Myth 2: Open caskets are a no-no after all that deformation
Fact: Organ procurement doesn’t change the form of the body or cause any physical deformation, it is in fact, a highly skilled and sensitive procedure. If an internal organ is procured, what can be seen is only the scar of the surgery on the chest and abdomen. The body will then be carefully and perfectly put together back again.
Myth 3: It’s going to hurt!
Fact: In Malaysia, cadaveric donation, or donation after death, is advocated partly because it carries no risk to the donor whatever. Organ donation will only be considered once a suitable patient has been declared brain dead. And since the donors are no longer alive, they should not be able to feel any pain during the organ donation retrieval procedure.
Myth 4: They’re going to take my organs before I’m really dead!
Fact: Many people have a false perception that brain death means the person is in a coma and can be revived. There’s a distinct difference though. A brain dead patient does not show any response and is not breathing. It is the ventilation machine that is assisting with supplying the oxygen to the body. A patient in a coma however, is unconscious but responds to tests. And although they are being assisted by a machine, the patient can breathe on his / her own and is still alive. Brain dead is unfortunately, dead without a chance of revival.
Myth 5: The doctors won’t try harder to save my life since I’m an organ donor
Fact: Doctors focus on saving their current patient’s life, not someone else’s.
Myth 6: I’m not healthy anyway, who would want my organs?
Fact: Whether you’re a smoker, drinker, overweight or have some sort of condition, there’s still a chance that some of your organs and tissues will be suitable for donation. At the time of death, transplant professionals will review your medical history and the condition of your organs to decide whether you’re a suitable candidate for donation.
Myth 7: Organ donation after death is illegal in Malaysia
Fact: It is legal. The Human Tissue Act 1974 allows using body parts of the dead for medical, education, and medical research purposes provided it’s approved by the deceased’s family or next of kin. It is an opt-in law though, which means that if you don’t have a signed paper explaining that you’d like to donate your organs, it’s not going to happen.
Myth 8: Signing up as an organ donor is too complicated!
Fact: It actually takes little to no effort! You just need to fill in this online organ donor form, and wait for your donor card to arrive on your doorstep and voila! You’re done. Alternatively, you can also call 1800-88-9080 to get a registration form mailed to you. There’s no need for medical check-ups and signing up as a pledger is free.
As this is a very personal decision that also affects those close to you, talk to your friends and family and get their point of view on the issue.
You can also learn more about organ donation via the National Transplant Resource Centre, Ministry of Health Malaysia.