Photo: Ann Lopez donated a kidney to her soon-to-be ex husband George Lopez, and is now an donation advocate
When it comes to organ donation, it appears there is still a cultural divide among Hispanics for and against it.
Organ donation experts say that Hispanics, predominantly first- and second-generation Mexicans, are less likely to donate organs than the overall American population.
Esmeralda Perez of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance said, “We find that the Hispanic community tells us, ‘My religion says not to donate,’ and ‘I can’t have an open casket because my body will be damaged.’ They feel that their loved one will be disfigured, or the person will not be able to get into heaven because their body will not be whole.”
The source of most hesitance about organ donation comes from religion, said Nuvia Enriquez, the Donor Network of Arizona’s Hispanic outreach coordinator.
“A lot of work that we do is to go out and try to dissolve some of these myths,” she said. “We talk to them about the Catholic Church’s position on donation, which is very positive. Pope John Paul II was actually the first pope to declare donation to be an act of love, and Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal, was a card-carrying organ donor.”
One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident, said she faced staunch opposition from her family when she made the decision to donate her daughter’s organs.
“The majority of my family had a belief that, ‘How could you do that? How could you allow her to be mutilated? How could you let them take her heart out?’”
However, that was in 2001, and since then her family has become more informed about the process and has since changed their opinions, and are no strong supporters of organ donation.
“After we all got more educated, and the family started attending these events where donors’ families meet organ recipients, and seeing how much of a difference this has made in the lives of others and the good they could do for all these people … I think they realized it was the right decision.”
Along the Rio Grande in South Texas, where the large majority of the residents are Latinos, organs from only 19 people were donated in 2010