Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How do I become an organ and tissue donor?

Answer
There are a number of ways to become an organ and tissue donor.
The best and easiest way to become a donor is to sign up online. Just go to www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org and register.

Also, if your state's motor vehicle department offers you the option to become a donor, that is another 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 about your 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.

Connecticut
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Rhode Island

Question:
Who can donate?

Answer:
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 or stroke, 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 Death (DCD).

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.

If you are a registered donor, your family will be fully informed about your decison to donate and about the donation process.


Question:
What can be donated?

Answer:
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, and CryoLife.

Question:
What about donating organs and tissues for use in research?

Answer:

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 protocol.


Question:
Why aren't there enough organs to meet the need?

Answer:
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 States die 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.

 

Question:
Where can I get more statistics and data about donation and transplants?

Answer:
The best source for statistics comes from the data section of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.


Question:
If I donate, will my body be disfigured so that I won't be able to have a normal funeral?

Answer:
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 choice. You can still receive a traditional burial or cremation if you donate.


Question:

Will it cost my family anything to donate?

Answer:
Organ and tissue donation is completely free. A donor's family is not charged for donation.


Question:
Will the quality of my medical care be compromised if I sign a donor card?

Answer:

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.


Question:
What major religious organizations in the United States support organ and tissue donation?

Answer:
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.


Question:

Does a patient who is rich or influential receive special consideration in organ distribution?

Answer:
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 blind to wealth or social status. Further, factors such as race, gender, age or celebrity status are not considered when determining who receives an organ.


Question:
How long do you have to wait for an organ?

Answer:
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 patient medical status, the availability of donors in the local area and the level of match between the donor and the 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.


Question:
What are organ procurement organizations (OPOs)?

Answer:
OPOs are organizations that coordinate activities relating to organ procurement in a designated service area. Evaluating potential donors, discussing donation with family members, and arranging for the surgical removal of donated organs are some of their primary functions. OPOs are also responsible for making arrangements for the organs' distribution according to national organ sharing policies. In addition, OPOs provide information and education to medical professionals and the general public to encourage organ and tissue donation.


Question:
What are the steps involved in organ donation and transplantation?

Answer:
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 the donated 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 removed from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs to the transplant centers, where the recipients have been readied for surgery.


Question:
How are recipients matched to donor organs?

Answer:
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 in Richmond, Virginia maintains a 24-hour telephone service to aid in matching donor organs with patients on the 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 compatibility 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 in the success of transplants.


Question:
Why should minorities be particularly concerned about organ donation?

Answer:
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 a 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 donor 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 group than 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.


Question:
Who pays for transplant surgery?

Answer:
Most transplants are paid for by private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid programs. Patients can get detailed information from their physicians or health insurers.


Question:
Where can I get more information about organ and tissue donation?

Answer:
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 can also visit the website of the United Network for Organ Sharing at www.unos.org This site contains up-to-date statistical information, and links to government agencies and other transplant-related organizations.

Question:
How can I make a monetary donation to New England Organ Bank.

Answer:
You may make an online contribution here:

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Contact us for more info or to request a donor card