Frequently Asked Questions About Organ Donation

Contact Information

(608) 263-0356

UW Organ and Tissue Donation can help answer any questions you have about organ donation.
Why is organ donation so important?

Currently, more than 120,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting the life saving gift that organ donation and transplant provides. Every day, 18 people who are waiting will die without a transplant. We have the cure for this medical crisis, but do not have enough organs to transplant all of those who are in need. Organs that can be donated include the:
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Small intestine
Does my religion allow organ donation?

Most religions support organ donation as the ultimate gift of charity. If you have questions about how your religion views organ donation, please talk to your religious or faith leader.
Is there ever a conflict between saving a life and donating organs?
No. Saving the patient's life always comes first. Medical professionals will take every step to keep patients alive and to restore them to good health. Only when irreversible brain injury or death is declared does one become a candidate for organ donation.
When would my family be asked about donating my organs?

The request for donating organs usually comes at the hospital because the organs must be recovered promptly using the hospital's operating room.
Will my family incur any expenses if I am an organ donor?

No. There is no financial cost to the donor or his/her estate for the donation. However, funeral costs still remain the responsibility of the family.
Does organ donation affect funeral plans?

Organ donation usually does not delay the funeral. A viewing and/or an open casket funeral can be held if the family so desires. 
Who can be an organ donor?  Is there an age limit?

Donors can range in ages from a few months old to over 75 years old. Medicine is ever evolving, so we recommend that each person understands the facts about organ donation and then makes a decision based on how they feel about organ donation. The medical professionals will determine suitability for organ donation at the time of death.
How do you determine who receives the organs?

The organ allocation system is strictly regulated by the Federal government and the United Network for Organ Sharing. Factors such as race, gender, income or social status are never considered when determining who will receive an organ. The length of time it takes to receive a transplant is governed by many factors, including blood type, severity of illness, body size and other medical criteria. Most organs that are donated in this area are used for transplants here at UW Hospital and Clinics. 
Does a donor family learn who receives the organs?

The identity of both the donor and the recipient are kept anonymous. If the donor family and/or the recipient wish to do so, they can exchange letters through UW Organ and Tissue Donation. After an exchange of letters, a signed release of information is required by both parties prior to UWHC releasing any information to the parties. At that point, if both parties would like, a meeting can be arranged at a future date. Either or both parties have the right to remain anonymous and the privacy of both parties is protected by Federal law.
If I decide to be an organ donor, what do I do next?

The most important thing that you can do is to tell your family of your decision to be an organ donor. Upon your death, your family will have to make the decision about organ donation and if they are aware of your decision, they can honor your wishes to be a donor. In Wisconsin, you can indicate your wish to be an organ donor on your driver's license or a state-issued ID card, by signing the back and placing an orange "donor dot" on the front of your license or ID card. Nationwide, you can sign a donor card and carry it in your wallet.
What is an OPO?

OPO stands for Organ Procurement Organization. There are 58 OPOs in the U.S. Each OPO is designated to a specific geographic region by the Federal government. The OPO in each region is responsible for coordinating the surgical recovery of organs, working with donor families, ensuring the organs are allocated according to federal policy, educating hospital personnel and educating the public on organ donation.
What area does UW Organ and Tissue Donation cover?

UW Organ and Tissue Donation works with 98 hospitals in Wisconsin, four hospitals in Michigan and two hospitals in Illinois. This partnership ensures all potential donor families are offered the opportunity of organ donation.
How do I contact UW Organ and Tissue Donation?

For general information about organ donation, please call (608) 265-0356 or e-mail You can also write to us at:

UW Organ and Tissue Donation
448 Science Drive  Suite 250
Madison, WI  53711
How do I arrange a speaker from UW Organ and Tissue Donation?

If you would like to arrange a speaker, please call us at (608) 265-0356 or e-mail
How do I sign up to be a Volunteer for UW Organ and Tissue Donation:

UW Organ and Tissue Donation values the input and assistance of people who are willing to help promote organ donation. Depending on our current needs, there are opportunities to speak, help with special events or assist in projects. To sign up as a volunteer, please call (608) 265-0356 or e-mail