Is there a cost to organ donation?

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I decided to write this as a blog rather than just in the updates as there is quite a bit of information and it clarifies a number of questions that I have been asked at different times. At a presentation on my book last month one person present stated, not queried or implicated, that when a person’s organs are donated the family has to pay all the costs of removal and transport. I expressed surprise at this as I had not seen anything to this effect in my research when writing the book.

After the meeting I agreed to add this to my website updates. For some reason the month has past and I suddenly realised that I had not done this. Well, it would seem that it was fortunate that I had not done so as there was an interesting article on organ donation in today’s Sunday Tribune.(6 September 2015)

A young lady waiting for a heart & lungs transplant received one at the last minute and is now leading an active and normal life. She has been nominated as a LeadSA Hero for the work and support she is now giving to the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) of South Africa. To the side of the story on Angela was a box with some answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Sarah Ferguson, the Executive Director of ODF, first explains that if a person donates all of their organs they can save up to seven lives – heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys & liver are all life-saving organs. Further to that are the corneas which can restore sight and various body tissues such as skin and heart valves can be used.

The FAQs answered by Sarah are as follows:

1. How do doctors know that a donor is actually dead?
Two doctors who are completely independent with regard to the transplant team do a number of detailed tests before any a person is declared brain dead and organs can be removed. The criteria for brain death are very strictly adhered to medically, ethically and legally in South Africa and internationally.

2. Does being a donor delay the funeral?
As soon as the donated organs have been removed the body is returned to the family for burial or cremation.

3. Does organ/tissue donation leave the body disfigured?
The utmost respect and dignity is given to the donor. The recovery of organs and tissue is done with great care by surgeons trained staff and the process does not change the way the body looks.

4. Does a family pay for the cost of donation?
The hospital or state covers all medical expenses from the moment of diagnosis or brain death.

5. Can people buy or sell organs and tissue?
Organ/tissue donation is a gift of life. Trading in organs and tissue is illegal.

From this information given by the ODF it is clear, particularly from the answer to question 4, that there is no cost to the family of the donor nor is there any financial gain by either the receiver of organs nor the Foundation.

With thanks to the ODF and the Sunday Tribune.

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