Another obstacle to increasing the donor ranks is the presence of an array of misconceptions about organ, blood and marrow donation.
Some people decline to become a potential marrow donor because they believe the donation process will be painful, involving a needle stuck into their bones.
"About 75 percent of the time it's done through a blood draw, just like at a blood drive," Dutchin said. Marrow donors are given a medication that causes their bone marrow to overproduce stem cells, which are pushed into the bloodstream. After five days, the stem cells are collected from their blood, much like what occurs for a plasma donation. The worst a person would feel, she explained, would be a little achy or as if he or she had the flu as the stem cells accumulate in the blood.
Other people believe it's against their religion to donate organs. "Most major religions see it as an act of charity and brotherly love," Ganikos said. "They either encourage donation or leave it up to the individual."
Another misconception to be countered is the notion that hospital personnel would not do everything in their power to save the life of someone registered as an organ donor because they need the donations, said Teresa Beigay, director of special donation projects for the government's transplantation division.
"The donation does not kick in until every effort is made to save that life," she said. "Notification doesn't happen until after death."
Also, people sometimes mistakenly believe that they're too old to donate.
"Some people think when you're over 50, you can't be an organ donor," Ganikos said. "There have been donors in their 90s and recipients in their 80s. We don't want people to rule themselves out. They should register, and let doctors decide after their death if some or all of their organs are useful."
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