Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ for the purpose of transplantation into another person.
In order for a person to become an organ donor, blood and oxygen must flow through the organs until the time of recovery to ensure viability. This requires that a person die under circumstances that have resulted in an irreparable neurological injury, usually from massive trauma to the brain such as aneurysm, stroke or automobile accident. Only after all efforts to save the patient’s life have been exhausted, tests are performed to confirm the absence of brain or brain stem activity, and brain death has been declared, is donation a possibility. The state donor registry is searched to determine if the patient has personally consented to donation. If the potential donor is not found on the registry, his or her legally authorized representative (usually a spouse, relative or close friend) is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation. Once the donation decision is established, the family is asked to provide a medical and social history. Donation professionals determine which organs can be transplanted and to which patients on the national transplant waiting list the organs are to be allocated.
Learn the Facts
Despite continuing efforts at public education, misconceptions and inaccuracies about donation persist. Learn these facts to help you better understand organ, eye and tissue donation:
Fact: Anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, race, or medical history.
Fact: All major religions in the United States support organ, eye and tissue donation and see it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ, eye and tissue donation can only be considered after you are deceased.
Fact: When you are on the waiting list for an organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information, not your financial status or celebrity status.
Fact: An open casket funeral is possible for organ, eye and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process the body is treated with care, respect and dignity.
Fact: There is no cost to the donor or their family for organ or tissue donation.
Although there have been advances in medical technology and donation, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. For more information, read the summary below or create a detailed data report on the UNOS Web site.
- More than 114,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
- Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
- An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
- In 2011, there were 8,127 deceased organ donors and 6,017 living organ donors resulting in 28,535 organ transplants.
- Last year, more than 42,000 grafts were made available for transplant by eye banks within the United States.
- According to research, 98% of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86% have heard of tissue donation.
- 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor