Q & A

How does organ donation affect me?

Almost everyone knows of someone whom has benefited from an organ donation, of someone who has made the decision to become an organ donor.

Who can become a donor?

Anyone can indicate their wish to donate. There are no age limitations; people of all ages give and receive organ and tissue donations. Individuals with previous or current medical conditions can also be potential organ and tissue donors and should not rule themselves out.

How are organ, eye, and tissue donation helpful?

Organ transplant operations save lives. Organ donation gives hope to people on the transplant waiting list who are suffering from organ failure. Eye donation and tissue donation can vastly improve the quality of life of patients.

Which organs can be donated?

The heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and small bowel can be donated to patients who need them. A kidney, a lobe of the liver, and parts of a lung or the pancreas can be donated by living donors (in order of frequency).

The following tissues can also be donated: cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

Why is there a pressing need for organ donors?

Every day, more and more people are added to the U.S. transplant waiting list, while the number of donors is growing at a considerably lower rate. In fact, every twenty minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list, one with an average wait time of 8 years.

How many people in the US are registered organ donors?

Currently, only about 43 percent of the population of U.S. adults have their names on the organ, eye, and tissue donor registry.

43 percent of the US population still translates to many millions of people. Why, then, is there still a shortage of organ donors?

Many registered organ donors are ineligible to donate after their deaths. Of the 2.2 million people who die each year, only about 2 percent of them are eligible to donate organs.

How are available organs allocated?

The United Network of Organ Sharing administrates all organ distribution and matching in the US under contract with the federal government. Organs are allocated based on factors including medical need, blood and tissue type, height and weight, time on the waiting list, and geographical location. It is important to note that celebrity, wealth, and race are not included in these factors.

Can the donor family meet the transplant recipients?

Meetings between donor families and recipients are left to the donor family and recipient’s discretion since deceased donation is a confidential process. If the donor family’s OPO (organ procurement organization) or the recipient’s transplant center is a member of TransplantNet, the donor family and recipient can safely contact one another through the TransplantNet communication process. Alternatively, the donor family and recipient can send hard-copy letters to one another through the OPO and transplant center, respectively. In both methods, both parties have the right to remain anonymous and are not obligated or pressured to respond, and both must consent to receiving correspondence.

Will doctors still try to save me if they are aware of my intention to become a donor?

YES. When you’re admitted to the hospital, saving your life is the first priority, and the medical team taking care of you is separate from the transplant team. Additionally, two doctors uninvolved in donation and transplantation must declare an individual brain dead before organ donation can become a possibility.

Can I donate or receive organs in the United States if I am a non-resident?

Non-residents are permitted to both donate and receive organs in the United States. Organs are given to patients based on medical need and other logistical factors, not based on citizenship.

Can I specify that a member of my family or my friend who is in need of an organ receives the one I am donating?

Yes. This form of donation is known as “direct donation.”

What if I want to change my mind about being a donor?

You are never obligated to be an eye, tissue, and/or organ donor under any circumstance. If you would like to withdraw your status as a potential donor, contact your state donor registry and they will be happy to assist you.

Does my religion support or permit donation?

Most major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of generosity and love towards others. Click here or here for more information.

Does organ donation affect the possibility of an open casket funeral?

No. Organ, eye, and tissue donation do not disfigure the body, which is treated with respect and integrity. All incisions are closed, and clothes worn by the donor will cover any signs of the surgical procedure.

Do donors or their families have to pay the medical expenses related to donation?

No, donors and donor families do not pay for organ, eye or tissue donation. Recipients pay for costs related to their transplant, often through their insurance or government health and welfare programs.