What You Need to Know About Organ Donation
Making a decision about donation comes, for many families, at a time of great sadness. Deciding to donate organs and tissue is a choice that can be made while you are healthy, letting your family and healthcare team know your final wishes.
What can be donated?
What can be donated varies and eligibility is determined at the time of one's death.
- Organs include: Heart, Lungs, Kidneys, Liver, Pancreas, Intestines
- Tissues include: Skin grafts, bone grafts, connective tissue, veins, heart valves, corneas
How are they used?
Organ donation is gifted to individuals who are in need of transplant due to illnesses such as, heart failure, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, liver failure, or other common illnesses. Each donated organ can replace one that no longer works in the person who receives it.
There are many uses for donated tissue.
Bone is used to:
- Repair or replace parts of the spine
- Repair broken bones
- Prevent amputation
Connective tissues are used to:
- Repair injured tendons and ligaments
- Strengthen bladders for those who are incontinent
Veins are used to:
- Restore circulation when veins and arteries are blocked
- Replace damaged blood vessels in heart bypass surgery
- Create a path for kidney dialysis
Cornea tissue is used to:
- Restore vision for those whose corneas no longer work
Skin is used to:
- Form a life-saving temporary dressing for burn victims
- Repair hernias
Heart valves are used to:
- Replace diseased valves in adults and children
- Repair birth defects
Will my decision affect my care?
Attempting to save your life always comes first. Organ and tissue recovery efforts do not begin until a donor's doctors have declared death.
What does donation cost?
Organ and tissue donations are a gift and all costs associated with recovery are taken care of by the recovering agency.
Will donation interfere with funeral arrangements?
Organs and tissues are removed very carefully and respectfully. Surgeons do everything they can to preserve the donor's appearance. Funeral directors can restore the body for viewing.
Does my religion allow donation?
All major U.S. religions support organ and tissue donation. This is an individual choice. If you are not sure, talk with your religious leader.
Making the decision
Donation is your choice, but talking with your family about your donation decision is important. You can sign up to be a donor on your state's donor registry either at your local motor vehicle office or online at organdonor.gov.