FAQ about Organ and Tissue Donation

February 11, 2009

Q. Why are organ and tissue donations needed?
A. Each year the number of people waiting for transplants increases dramatically. Today more than 100,000 people are currently awaiting a transplant in the U.S. Those in need include babies, teenagers, young adults and those looking ahead to their retirement. Additionally, thousands of patients are currently awaiting bone marrow transplants.

Q. Do donor cards distributed by transplant-related organizations have the same validity as my driver's license?
A. If a completed organ donor card or statement is signed in front of witnesses and included with your driver's license, both are legal documents and show your intent to become an organ donor. They are equally valid. As of 2006, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) states that a signature on a driver's license or a donor registry is a legally binding document. Therefore if you intend to be an organ donor, that request cannot be changed by a family member after you have passed away.

Q. Will my family be charged for donating my organs?
A. The donor family is never charged for costs associated with organ donation. Once your family has given consent for donation, all costs are handled by the procurement organization.

Q. Can I be paid for donating organs?
A. No. Organ donation is a gift. The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 prohibits the buying and selling of human organs.

Q. Who will receive my donated organs?
A. Potential recipients are identified using the United Network for Sharing (UNOS) national computer system. The computer generates a list of patients ranked according to strict medical criteria, urgency of need and time. Donor and recipient identity is confidential, although some basic information may be shared.

Q. May I have a proper funeral after donating organs?
A. Yes. The removal of organs and tissue does not interfere with customary burial arrangements. Organ removal is carried out as a regular surgical procedure. The donor's body is treated with the utmost respect, and an open casket funeral is possible. Funeral arrangements remain the responsibility of the donor family.

Q. If I decide to become an organ donor, will that affect the level of my medical care?
A. Absolutely not. Organ recovery takes place only after every effort has been made to save the patient's life. The patient must be declared "brain dead" before the organs can be procured. An entirely different team of medical professionals is brought in to procure organs after brain death. The first priority of all medical professionals is the well-being of their patients, regardless of whether or not they wish to donate their organs.

Q. What organs and tissues can be donated?
A. Kidneys, hearts, livers, lungs, pancreases and intestines can be donated, as well as eyes, skin, heart valves, bone marrow and bone. In certain circumstances, a kidney, bone marrow or a portion of the lung or liver may be received from a living donor, generally from a close family member.

Q. Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?
A. Organ and tissue donation is consistent with the beliefs of all major religions. Many faiths openly encourage it, seeing this as a final act of giving and as an expression of hope on the part of the donor. If you have any questions, please discuss them further with your minister, priest or rabbi.