How do I become an organ and tissue donor?
There are a number of ways to become an organ and tissue
The best and easiest way to become a donor is to sign
Just go to www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org and
Also, if your state's motor vehicle department
way to make your wishes known and to have them respected
after you die as it will include you in that state's
Donor Registry - which is legal consent for both
organ and tissue donation.
Carrying a signed donor card is another way to indicate
your consent for donation. Also, share your decision
to donate with your family so that your family knows
interest in becoming an organ and tissue donor.
Most New England states
also allow you to register on your driver's license.
That is also a good way to become a donor. For more
information about your state, click the links below.
Who can donate?
People of all ages may be eligible to donate
organs and tissues. Your medical condition at the
time of death will determine what organs and tissues
can be donated.
People who have died by brain death criteria, cessation
of brain function usually due to a traumatic injury
can often donate organs and tissue unless there
are other reasons for a medical rule-out. Patients
who die after the cessation of heart and lung function
following a family's decision to withdraw
ventilatory support can also be considered for organ
donation - this is referred to as Donation After Cardiac
Tissue donation is different from organ donation in
that many more people are likely to be eligible for
tissue donation. Tissue can be recovered from donors
up to 24 hours after death has be determined by
either brain death or cardiac death criteria.
What can be donated?
Heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver, small bowel,
bone and associated tendons, blood vessels, heart
valves, skin and corneas. Organs are allocated through
the United Network for Organ
Sharing. Tissues recovered by NEOB are first
processed for safety and preservation purposes before
they are transplanted.
Tissue recovered by NEOB are processed by non-profit and for-profit organizations such as: LifeNet, Tissue
Banks International, LifeCell,
What about donating organs and tissues for use in research?
Organs and tissues from Donor Registry consented donors
are only recovered for the purpose of the transplantation.
Should information come to light after the recovery
procedure to indicate that an organ or tissue is not
suitable for transplantation, an effort will be
made to place the organ or tissue in an approved research
Why aren't there enough organs to meet the need?
Over time, transplants have become more successful
and more people have been added to the national
waiting list. However, the numbers of donors
has not grown
as fast as the number of people that need
organs and tissue. Every day, 18 people in the United
waiting for organ transplants. Every 11 minutes
another person's name is added to the list
of thousands who
await lifesaving organ transplants. Currently,
there are over 101,000 total patients waiting
for a transplant
in the United States. Thousands more await
life enhancing tissue transplants.
Where can I get more statistics and data about donation
The best source for statistics comes from the data
section of the Organ
Procurement and Transplantation Network.
If I donate, will my body be disfigured so that I
won't be able to have a normal funeral?
Donated organs and tissues are removed surgically.
Careful attention is made so that an open casket
funeral is still an option if that is the person's
You can still receive a traditional burial or cremation
if you donate.
Will it cost my family anything to donate?
Organ and tissue donation is completely free. A donor's
family is not charged for donation.
Will the quality of my medical care be compromised
if I sign a donor card?
If you are sick or injured, the number one priority
of the medical team is to save your life. Organ and
tissue donation can be pursued only after all efforts
to save your life have failed, after you are declared
dead and after your family has been consulted.
What major religious organizations in the United
States support organ and tissue donation?
Religious groups including Protestant, Catholic and
Jewish faiths support organ and tissue donation as
a charitable gift of life consistent with the basic
tenets of their faiths.
Does a patient who is rich or influential receive
special consideration in organ distribution?
Although celebrities get most of the media attention,
the fact is that thousands of other patients receive
donated organs as well. Donor organs are matched
to recipients based on blood and tissue type, geographic
location and medical urgency. Organ allocation is
to wealth or social status. Further, factors such
as race, gender, age or celebrity status are not
when determining who receives an organ.
How long do you have to wait for an organ?
There is no set amount of time, and there is no way
to know how long a patient must wait to receive a
donor organ. Factors that affect waiting times are
medical status, the availability of donors in the
local area and the level of match between the donor
recipient. Don't forget that listing practices also
affect wait times. Some physicians and programs list
many patients, even those not yet ready for donation.
Others list very conservatively. Organs are usually
first made available to the sickest patients in the
region where the organ was donated. If there is no
medical match in that area, then the organ is offered
to patients in a broader geographic area.
What are organ procurement organizations (OPOs)?
OPOs are organizations that coordinate activities
relating to organ procurement in a designated service
Evaluating potential donors, discussing donation
with family members, and arranging for the surgical
of donated organs are some of their primary functions.
OPOs are also responsible for making arrangements
for the organs' distribution according to national
sharing policies. In addition, OPOs provide information
and education to medical professionals and the general
public to encourage organ and tissue donation.
What are the steps involved in organ donation and
Hospitals notify the Organ Procurement Organization
of the impending death of a patient. The OPO staff
makes an initial determination about medical disqualifications
for organ and tissue donation, and if there are none
immediately apparent a trained donation professional
goes to the hospital to further evaluate the patient
and offer donation to the next of kin if the patient
has not already consented to donation through a donor
card or through a motor vehicle office. Using the
national computerized waiting list, OPO staff match
organs with the most appropriate recipient(s) and
arrange for the recovery surgery. They also stay
with the donor's
family and provide support as long as the family
wishes. Immediately after the organ(s) are surgically
from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs
to the transplant centers, where the recipients have
been readied for surgery.
How are recipients matched to donor organs?
Persons waiting for transplants are listed by the
transplant center where they plan to have surgery
on a national
computerized waiting list of potential transplants
patients in the United States. Under contract with
the Health Resources and Services Administration,
the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) located
Richmond, Virginia maintains a 24-hour telephone
service to aid in matching donor organs with patients
national waiting list and to coordinate efforts with
transplant centers. When donor organs become available,
the OPO that recovered the organs provides UNOS with
information about the medical characteristics of
the donor and specific organs, including medical
between the donor and potential recipient(s) on such
characteristics as blood type, weight, and age; as
well as the recipients' urgency of need; and length
of time on waiting list. Also, preference is generally
given to recipients from the same geographic area
as the donor, because timing is a critical element
the success of transplants.
Why should minorities be particularly concerned about
Minorities suffer end-stage renal disease (ESRD),
a very serious life-threatening kidney disease, much
more frequently than do whites. Asian Americans are
three times more likely than whites to develop ESRD;
Hispanics are three times as likely; and blacks are
twice as likely as whites to develop ESRD. ESRD is
treatable with dialysis but dialysis can result in
a poor quality of life for the patient. The preferred
treatment of ESRD is kidney transplantation. Transplantation
offers the patient freedom from dialysis to lead
more normal life and can successfully cure ESRD for
many years. As with any transplant procedures, it
is very important to assure a close match between
and recipient blood types and genetic make-up. Members
of different racial and ethnic groups are usually
more genetically similar to members of their own
they are to others. (For example, blacks are usually
more genetically similar to other blacks than they
are to whites.) It is important, therefore, to increase
the minority donor pool so that good matches can
be made as frequently as possible for minority patients.
Who pays for transplant surgery?
Most transplants are paid for by private health insurance,
Medicare or Medicaid programs. Patients can get detailed
information from their physicians or health insurers.
Where can I get more information about organ and
If you would like more information about organ and
tissue donation and transplantation, please call
the New England Organ Bank at (800) 446-6362. You
visit the website of the United Network for Organ
Sharing at www.unos.org This site contains up-to-date
information, and links to government agencies and
other transplant-related organizations.
How can I make a monetary donation to New England Organ
You may make an online contribution here:
Contact us for
more info or to request a donor card