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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

Organizations

Donate Life America
701 East Byrd Street
16th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: (804) 377-3580
Email: donatelifeamerica@donatelife.net
Web Address: http://donatelife.net
 

Donate Life America is an organization supported by the transplant community. This group works at a local level to educate Americans on the need for organ donation. The website includes information on how to become an organ donor, other information on organ donation, and personal stories about organ donors and recipients. This group used to be called the Coalition on Donation.


Healthy Transplant
15000 Commerce Parkway
Suite C
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Phone: (856) 439-9986
Fax: (856) 439-9982
Email: ast@ahint.com
Web Address: www.healthytransplant.com
 

Healthy Transplant is a website sponsored by the American Society of Transplantation. This website helps people learn about transplantation. Patients can build a profile and take an active role in their health care. The website was created to help patients and family members understand more about transplantation and help people be more involved in their health care.


OrganDonor.Gov
Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20201
Phone: 1-877-696-6775 toll-free
Web Address: www.organdonor.gov
 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on organ tissue donation and transplantation through its OrganDonor.gov website. It lists the number of people currently on the waiting list for transplants. It gives information on how to become an organ or tissue donor and describes the process of transplantation. It also provides information on research and guidelines, and it lists resources such as locations of transplant centers.


United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
700 North 4th Street
Richmond, VA  23219
Phone: 1-888-894-6361
Web Address: www.unos.org
 

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization that administers the nation's only Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). It was established by the U.S. Congress in 1984. UNOS collects and manages data about every transplant event occurring in the United States, facilitates the organ matching and placement process, and brings together health professionals, transplant recipients, and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy. UNOS:

  • Matches donors to recipients and coordinates the organ-sharing process 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Maintains the databases that contain all clinical transplant data for every transplant event that occurs in the United States.
  • Performs data analyses, fills data requests, produces the Annual and other data reports, and authors authoritative publications.
  • Monitors every organ match to ensure adherence to UNOS policy, and works with the Board of Directors to develop equitable policies that maximize the limited supply of organs.
  • Offers support to members of the transplant community. These services include seminar planning, providing educational programs and workshops, and much more.
  • Provides assistance to patients, family members, and friends, and sets professional standards for efficiency and quality patient care.
  • Raises public awareness about the importance of organ donation.
  • Works to keep patients informed about transplant issues and policies.
  • Offers comprehensive travel and event planning to assist organizations within the transplant community.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised January 3, 2012

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