Questions and Answers About Organ and Tissue Donation

The need for organs continues to grow at an alarming rate and is truly a public health crisis. There are currently more than 90,000 men, women, and children in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant. More than 2,300 of these individuals live in the Upper Midwest. Every 13 minutes another name is added to the national waiting list, and each day 17 people die while they wait for their transplant.

How do I become an organ and tissue donor?
Marking your intentions to become an organ and tissue donor on your driver’s license or state ID card will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled. Talk with your family about your decision so they can be prepared to support and honor your wishes.

What if my driver’s license isn’t marked with a “yes”?
In the absence of known donor designation, LifeSource will seek authorization for donation from the next-of-kin. Therefore, it is extremely important that you share your wishes with your family as they can ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.

What organs and tissues can be donated? Organs:
Heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and intestines. Tissue: Corneas, skin, veins, tendons, bone, bone marrow, heart valves and connective tissue.

What are the benefits of organ and tissue donation?
Families who make the decision to extend the gift of life often find that donation helps them through their grieving process. Donation is something positive that can come from the death of a loved one. One person can save or enhance up to 60 lives through organ and tissue donation.

Should my age or health condition influence my decision to become an organ and tissue donor?
No. While medical history and age are factors, most people CAN donate. People with diabetes, hepatitis, and cancer sometimes CAN donate their organs. The only individuals who cannot donate are those who test positive for the HIV virus. Age criteria are evaluated individually.

What are the criteria for becoming an organ and tissue donor? Organs and tissues can only be donated after death. Age and health criteria are evaluated on an individual basis at the time of death; everyone should consider themselves a potential organ and tissue donor.

Will my family have to pay for the cost of my organ and/or tissue donation?
There is no cost to the donor family for donation. All expenses related to organ and tissue donation are assumed by LifeSource and passed on to the transplant recipients and their health insurers.

Do certain religions support organ and tissue donation?
Most major religions support organ and tissue donation as one of the highest forms of loving, giving and caring – the principles upon which all religions are based.

If I am a donor, will I be able to have a regular, open-casket funeral service?
Donation does not prevent an open-casket funeral service.

If I’m carrying a donor card, or if “Donor” is on my driver’s license and I am admitted to a hospital, will they let me die so they can recover my organs?
No. The first responsibility of medical professionals is to save lives, and every effort will be made to save your life before donation is considered. Organ and tissue donation is offered as an option to your family only after all lifesaving measures have failed and you have been declared legally dead.

Can organs and tissues be recovered prior to death?
No. Donation is only an option after death has been declared.

How are organs distributed to patients waiting for organ transplants? Every person waiting for an organ transplant is registered with UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing. The organ procurement organization works with UNOS to fairly allocate organs based upon medical urgency, genetic matching and length of time waiting.

Is there a “black market” for organs in the United States? No. It is illegal to buy or sell human organs and tissues in the United States (Anatomical Gift Act of 1968). In addition, every organ and tissue donation and transplant is reviewed by a national governing body. Strict regulations prevent any type of “black market” from existing in the United States.

Do the rich and famous have a better chance of receiving a transplant?
Eligibility to receive an organ transplant is not determined by a person’s financial status or celebrity. After a patient has been determined to be a medically-suitable candidate for an organ transplant, their name is added to the national computer waiting list. Organs are fairly allocated based upon medical criteria, genetic matching, and length of time on the waiting list.

Will the identity of the organ donor be revealed to the transplant recipient?
The identities of both the recipient and the donor family are confidential. The LifeSource coordinator sends a letter to the donor family informing them about the organ recipients such as their age and sex, and how their health has improved. Some donor families and recipients correspond anonymously. On occasion, when both sides wish to correspond directly or meet, LifeSource will help facilitate the communication or meeting.

Why should minorities be especially concerned?
Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver are found more frequently in racial and ethnic minority populations. Transplantation between people who are strong genetic matches is generally more successful. Recipients have a better chance of finding a match from their same racial group. Approximately 50 percent of all people on the waiting list are minorities while only 25 percent of all donors are minorities.

For more information about organ donation, please call LifeSource (612-603-7800) or 24 hour toll free (1-800-24-SHARE).