UCI Health supports Donate Life month

Organ donation saves lives

April 02, 2019

April is National Donate Life Awareness Month and UCI wants to remind people that organ donation saves lives. More than 114,000 people in the U.S. wait for lifesaving organ transplants.

According to Donate Life America, 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not available. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national transplant waiting list. 

However, even though the need is great, there are many misconceptions surrounding the subject.

“Some people are hesitant because of negative connotations surrounding organ donation that are simply not true,” said Dr. Cristobal Barrios Jr., a UCI Health surgeon who specializes in trauma and critical care. “End of life issues are near and dear to me because so many could people be helped if they had accurate information about donation.” 

Common misconceptions include:

  • Physicians are waiting for loved ones to die so they can recover organs
  • Religious objections
  • Loved ones feel pain and/or are still alive when organs are recovered
  • Loved ones could still survive or pull through

OneLegacy, the non-profit, federally-designated organ recovery organization, works with hospital systems like UCI Heath to support families who make the decision to honor their loved ones by donating life-saving and healing organs and tissues for those in need.

Barrios said this decision sometimes provides these donor families with a sense of purpose and comfort.

“We approach organ donation very seriously at UCI Health. The patient is treated respectfully during their entire journey, even after death,” said Barrios, a professor in the UCI School of Medicine's Department of Surgery. “Family members are not pressured, and are given time to make decisions surrounding their loved ones death. Spiritual care is also offered.

Facts about organ donation:

  • Representatives from OneLegacy, not surgeons, work with families to discuss donation decisions
  • Physicians must follow a formal process to recover organs – they are not waiting for patients to die
  • Most religious groups support organ and tissue donation
  • Deceased donors do not feel any pain during organ recovery

The donation process does not begin until every attempt has been made to save a patient’s life. Additionally, a patient must be declared legally dead before proceed with donation.

“Early in my career, I worked in a hospice center and dealt with end of life issues every day. It is a difficult thing to deal with,” said Barrios. “However, the truth is that when you choose to donate organs after death, real hope and something positive can come out of tragedy.” 

According to OneLegacy, one donor can save and heal more than 75 people.

  • Organ donation could save up 8 lives
  • Cornea donation could give sight to 2 people
  • Tissue donation could heal up to 75 people

UCI Health comprises the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. The 417-bed acute-care hospital provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, as well as behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is also home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.