Planning to Be an Organ Donor

Topic Overview

Introduction

Donating one or more of your organs after your death can help save another person's life. Over 100,000 people in the United States are now waiting for the gift of an organ to become available for an organ transplant.

Most people can be organ donors. If you are interested in donating organs or tissues, contact the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) at 1-888-894-6361 or go online at www.unos.org to get more information.

How can you be an organ donor?

Plan ahead. To become an organ donor, put your name on your state's donor registry. Many states give you the option to become a donor when you apply for a driver's license or when you renew your license. Other states have a form you can fill out in person or online and file with a state organ donor registry. You can find your state registry by going to www.organdonor.gov/stateMap.asp. Either way, your name goes on a list of possible donors, and your status is noted on your driver's license. To find out what's required in your state, check with your doctor or call your local Department of Motor Vehicles office.

People of any age can register to be organ donors. In many states there's no minimum age, though an adult might have to sign for someone under age 18.

If you've decided to become a donor, be sure to let your family, friends, and doctor know. And include your wish to be an organ donor when you prepare a living will or advance directive.

What organs can you donate?

You can donate organs or tissues.

Organs to donate include:

Tissues to donate include:

Can you choose what to donate?

Yes, you can choose what organs and tissues you would like to offer for donation. Or you can choose to donate any organs that are needed. You can also choose to donate for transplant, for research, or for educational purposes.

What are the facts about organ donation?

You don't have to be young and in perfect health to be a donor. There are no age limits to putting your name on the donor registry. And you don't have to be perfectly healthy to donate an organ. It's the health of a certain organ that matters. Talk with your doctor or local organ procurement organization (OPO) if you have questions.

If you're on the donor registry, you will get the life-saving care you need when you need it. You won't be denied care in order to obtain your organs. State laws and emergency medical practices ensure that your life comes first. The medical staff who take care of you are completely separate from the organ donation system. Only when a donor has died does a medical team contact the organ donation network to arrange a donation.

Donating an organ costs you nothing. It doesn't cost the receiving patient's family, either. The cost of removing the organs and transporting them is paid by the organ procurement organization.

Priority for transplants is by greatest chance of transplant success. This means that the organ will go to the patient for whom the transplant will most likely be successful. Things affecting who gets an organ may include tissue and blood type, the length of time the recipient has spent on the waiting list, or the distance between the donor and recipient. The financial status or celebrity of the recipient is not considered.

Having an open-casket funeral is possible for organ donors. The surgery to remove the organs is easy to cover up with clothing or prosthetics.

All major religions allow organ donation. The Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths encourage organ donation or leave it up to individual choice. Ask your spiritual advisor if you have questions about your religion's views on organ donation.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: OrganDonor.gov
Web Address: www.organdonor.gov

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of March 12, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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