Are most New Jersey adults refusing to give the greatest gift simply because they're lacking the facts?

Research shows that 95% of U.S. adults support organ donation. But in New Jersey, only about a third are signed up as donors. That's compared to a national average nearing 60%.

According to New Jersey Sharing Network, the organization that handles the recovery and allocation of organs for transplant in the Garden State, false beliefs about organ and tissue donation are likely to blame for at least part of the gap between those who support the move and those who are willing to make it.

With approximately 4,000 people in New Jersey waiting for an organ transplant, and one person dying every three days waiting to receive one, the nonprofit wants to share the correct information.

"Overall, the myths and misconceptions are based on fear and lack of understanding, and some are really old," said Elisse Glennon, the Network's vice president and chief administrative officer.

Many residents, for example, may wrongly believe their religion frowns upon organ donation and believes an individual should be buried hole, Glennon said. According to Glennon, all major religions support organ donation, and the Network has statements from religious leaders "saying that organ donation and saving someone's life is one of the most important things you can do."

"I would encourage anyone who thinks their religion is against organ donation to speak with their faith leader about it and not rely on old myths from 50 years ago," Glennon said.

The Sharing Network is independently governed and, by law, operates separately from the medical professionals in charge with saving your life.

Glennon said the public is generally confused about who handles donations, adding to the falsities surrounding the topic.

There's the misconception, Glennon said, that a doctor or nurse may be less likely to save someone's life if they see the patient is a registered organ donor. That couldn't be further from the truth, she said, because hospital personnel are not aware of whether a patient is a registered donor. The recovery/transplant team is not contacted until a patient has passed.

Nearly 680 life-saving transplants occurred in New Jersey during 2018. About three-quarters of the transplants came from patients who had died.

Individuals can register to be a donor through a Motor Vehicle Commission office, or by signing up online for the national registry. Those who register with the state will have to renew their donor designation each time they renew their license. A national designation does not need to be renewed.

Glennon said both registries are checked by the Network when searching for a transplant match.

"Some people may think they're too old, or something about their own medical condition would keep them being an organ donor," Glennon added. "If it is your wish to save someone else's life upon your passing, then register to be an organ donor and leave that decision up to the medical field."

Glennon said a condition that may rule out an individual one year could be gone the next.

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