Quality and experience you can trust
UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) is one of 57 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations in the nation. We are dedicated and compassionate experts who serve deceased organ and tissue donors and their families. With great respect and kindness, we support donors and their families as members of our UW OTD family.
Our team is passionate about service, innovation and education. We work with community partners to promote the importance of registering your organ and tissue donation decision on your state registry. We continuously educate clinical teams in more than 100 hospitals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois so they can provide expert support to donor families. We work together to honor all organ and tissue donors as heroes who provide the gifts of life and healing.
For more than 50 years, UW Organ and Tissue Donation has been recognized as one of the nation’s finest organ procurement programs. Our team is known nationwide for their expertise, innovation and commitment to service. We are a HRSA best-practice site and lead the nation in serving deceased organ donors.
About our team
Our team manages the entire spectrum of care for deceased organ donors. We support families during the end-of-life process, and evaluate, manage, recover, preserve and provide organs for transplantation, research and education. We deliver professional education and performance improvement initiatives to better serve hospital partners and donor families. This work helps alleviate the organ shortage and improves quality of life through transplantation. We honor donor heroes and their families while achieving our mission to save and heal more lives.
Members of this team work hand-in-hand with critical care professionals at our more than 100 partner hospitals to facilitate the gifts of life. They evaluate and coordinate the medical management of patients who are referred as organ donors. Using the national waitlist system, they allocate and offer organs to transplant centers. This team provides education and support to donor family members during the donation process. They schedule and arrange for the recovery of organs and tissues.
While honoring and respecting donors and their families, this team manages the surgical recovery and preservation of donated organs. They provide compassionate support to the donor family during the final moments of their loved one’s life. They honor donors with a moment of silence and read aloud special memories of the donor, as shared by their family.
This team compassionately supports donor family members during their time of loss. They work with hospital staff to provide sensitive guidance to patient family members as they work through end-of-life decisions and options, including organ, tissue and eye donation. In the months and years following donation, this team continues to offer resources to help donor families navigate their journey of grief and loss. They also provide opportunities for donor families to connect with each other and create valuable connections that enhance our donation family.
This team works to save and heal more lives by increasing collaboration with healthcare professionals at our more than 100 partner hospitals. Administrators, physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapy, pharmacy, operating room and pastoral care team members are all important members of the donation experience team; they are vital to maintaining organ and tissue donation regulatory compliance. Our team provides education on organ and tissue donation best practices, advises on quality improvement initiatives, develops policies, facilitates skills training and builds relationships.
This team is dedicated to increasing awareness and providing education about the importance of registering as an organ, tissue and eye donor. They coordinate our volunteer program. Volunteers enhance our donation family and help UW Organ and Tissue Donation extend the donation and transplant message throughout the state and region to increase the number of registered donors. This team partners with experts in communications, marketing and media to ensure accurate donation information is shared.
Donation decisions come at a time of great stress, anxiety and sadness. It is important that you learn about donation and register your decision. Discuss your decision with your family.
State donor registries
A donor registry is a fast and easy way to register your donation decision. It is legal consent for donation. Registries provide an electronic record of your donation decision that can only be accessed by donation professionals. Your donation decision is important information in the event of your death. As a registered donor you will save your family from having to make this decision for you while grieving your death.
Your donation decision might be symbolized on your driver’s license or state ID. In Wisconsin, registered donors have an orange "donor dot" on their license. Other states have different symbols or the word "donor." If you do not have a donation symbol on your license or ID, you can access your state’s online donor registry to see if you are a registered donor.
If you wish to be a donor, register your decision. Age and health factors are considered at the time of donation, not at the time of registration. You can add or remove your name from the donor registry at any time. Please talk to your family about your donation decision.
Types of donations
One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save and heal more than 75 lives through tissue and eye donation.
Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and intestine.
There is no financial cost to the family for organ, tissue and eye donation. Donor family members often state that their loved-one’s decision to be a donor was a gift to them and the recipients of their organs.
Thousands of people are waiting for the gift of tissue to improve their life. The donation and surgical recovery of donated tissues includes skin, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, bone, heart valves and corneas. UW Organ and Tissue Donation works with organ and tissue donors during the time of donation. Tissue recovery services are managed through our partnership with Versiti, a non-profit organization with expertise in the screening and recovery of human tissue for transplant, research and education. Cornea recovery services are coordinated with our partner Eye Banks.
Donated tissue is used to help heal burn patients, serious abrasions, hernia repairs and in reconstructive surgeries for patients such as breast cancer survivors. Bone is used in orthopedic surgeries to facilitate the healing of fractures or to prevent amputation. Heart valves are used to replace defective valves. Tendons are used to repair torn ligaments in knees or other joints. Veins are used in surgeries. Corneas can restore sight to the blind.
Living donation happens when a living person donates a kidney or part of their liver to someone who needs a transplant. Living donation services are managed through the UW Health Living Donation Program.
Interested in becoming a living donor?
An invaluable gift
There are more than 100,000 people in the nation who are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Another name is added to the national waiting list every 9 minutes, and an average of 19 people die every day because they did not get the organ they needed in time.
Sadly, the number of people waiting for an organ or tissue donation vastly exceeds the number of donors. More organ donors are needed to save more lives. Our community outreach team needs your help to increase awareness of the need for more registered donors.
UW Organ and Tissue Donation and the UW Health Transplant Program rely on our volunteers to help share the message about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor to increase the number of registered donors. Donor families, recipients and anyone else passionate about donation and transplantation are invited to join our volunteer team.
To become a volunteer:
Complete our volunteer form linked below
You will receive an email with instructions to create a login and password to take the 1-hour UW OTD volunteer computer training course.
Complete and return a “UW OTD Volunteer Confidentiality and Agreement” form located in the training module and a “Background Information Disclosure” form distributed by UW Health Human Resources to comply with Organ Procurement Organization regulatory standards.
When you complete the three steps above, you are a member of UW OTD's volunteer team and will receive emails with volunteer opportunities as available. We look forward to welcoming you to our team.
Express your support of organ donation and transplant by using and sharing these resources.
Driver's education instructors in Wisconsin are required by law, the Kelly Nachreiner Bill, to provide 30 minutes of organ donation education.
Why? This education provides accurate and consistent facts about organ, tissue and eye donation for teens so that they may make an informed decision about registering as an organ, tissue and eye donor on Wisconsin's Donor Registry when they go to the DMV to get their permit or driver's license.
Donate Life Wisconsin provides a toolkit to properly educate your students, especially for instructors who choose to teach the organ donation module by yourself.
Additional resources also are available for students through the toolkit.
Making the heroic decision to register as an organ, tissue and eye donor is a gift to your family that prevents them from having to make the decision on your behalf at a very difficult time.
Wisconsinites ages 15½ or older can register their authorization to be an organ, tissue and eye donor on Wisconsin's Donor Registry. Parents of minors can override their child's decision until the age of 18. We encourage all teens to discuss what they learned about organ donation and to share their personal decision to register with their family.
Donate Life Wisconsin is very grateful for the DMV customers who donated $2 to organ donation education to fund the cost of this toolkit.
Living donors and transplant recipients can celebrate their donation or organ transplant anniversary.
Where to find us
UW Organ and Tissue Donation
- 448 Science Drive, Suite 250 / Madison, WI
- Open now
The University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation service is located within a major academic medical center and is recognized as one of the most successful organ procurement programs in the nation.
- View hours, services and more
Inspiration from experience
We invite donor family members, transplant recipients, living donors and their loved ones to share their donation or transplant experience. These stories help others who are going through similar experiences. A member of our team will work with you to share your story through our website, social media or other opportunities.
Information and resources
At UW Organ and Tissue Donation Donor Family Services, we recognize that the death of a loved one changes lives forever.
Coping with loss is a process that takes time and each person's grief is unique. In the months and years following donation, this team continues to offer resources to help donor families navigate their journey of grief and loss. They support donor families and help them find peace through the hope their loved one gave to others.
Our program includes follow-up care through phone calls and mailings. We also offer emotional support and provide referrals to additional resources. We also provide opportunities for donor families to connect with each other.
Our donor family services team facilitates communication between donor families and recipients.
In your letter to the recipients of your loved one's gifts of life, you can identify your loved one by his/her/they first name and include photos. You also might wish to describe his/her/they interests or other information that you feel comfortable sharing. To maintain confidentiality, please do not include other identifying information in your letter (i.e. last name, address, email address, etc.)
Include a separate piece of paper with your loved one’s full name and date of donation. This information is only used by UW Organ and Tissue Donation staff for identification purposes.
Send these two items via mail or email to:
UW OTD DFS
448 Science Drive, Suite 250
Madison, WI 53711-1175
After exchanging at least one letter between the donor family and recipient(s), there are options for direct communication.
Friends and family members often express their desire to share a tribute to their loved one.
Obituary and programs: Tributes can be made in the donor hero’s obituary or funeral program. You can ask your newspaper or printer to include an organ donation symbol.
Financial memorials: Families and friends can make a financial gift in honor of a donor hero - visit UW Health Philanthropy for more information. Contributions to the UW Organ and Tissue Donation Donor Education Fund support our community outreach and education efforts.
UW Organ and Tissue Donation manages a private Facebook donor family support group. It provides a way for donor families to connect with and support one another. This is a ‘secret’ group, available by invitation only and not viewable by non-members. Group members can share information about their loved one, discuss experiences, and exchange support and advice with other donor families.
We provide information that we think may be helpful or informative, and updates on donation community events. We encourage all donor family members to join, even if it's just to quietly follow along or check in when having a bad day.
Subscribe to Transplant Update
Transplant Update is a short email we share to keep our donation and transplant family updated. Subscribers will see how we’re improving the future of donation and transplantation, read inspiring stories and discover ways to save more lives by promoting organ donation and transplantation. Subscribe