Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient). Transplantation is necessary because the recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury. Organ transplantation is one of the great advances in modern medicine. One single organ and tissue donor can save or improve the lives of more than eight people, helping to restore eyesight, damaged tissues or vital functions. Unfortunately, the need for organ donors is much greater than the number of people who actually donate. There are currently over 109,000 people on the national transplant waiting list.
There are a few myths that some people still believe that may prevent them from agreeing to organ donation. The first and perhaps most common is that not all efforts will be made to save your life if you are a registered organ donor. This is simply not true. Organ donation is not even considered until a patient is deceased. Secondly, many feel that they will not be able to have an open casket funeral. This is also false. There will be no signs of organ or tissue donation when prepared for burial. People also incorrectly believe there are extra costs incurred to the donor’s family to donate your organs. All costs directly related to the organ donation are paid for by the organ procurement agency. Lastly, some think that they are not in good enough health to be an organ donor or they are too old. However, there are no medical or age restrictions put on organ donors.
How are recipients matched to donors?
Individuals waiting for transplants are listed by the transplant center in their area. Their name goes into a national waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS manages the national list to match donor organs with patients on the top of the waiting list. When donor organs become available, the organ procurement organization (OPO) provides UNOS with information about the medical characteristics of the donor and any transplantable organs. Waiting list patients in the OPO’s local region are given the first opportunity for the organs. If no one is a match there, the organs are offered to the region, and then nationally, if necessary.
How can I become an organ donor?
You can join a donor registry. A registry is more than just an expression of interest in becoming a donor. It is a way to legally give consent for the anatomical gift of organs, tissue, and eyes. Each time you go to your local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you will be asked, "do you want to make an anatomical gift?" All you have to do is say "Yes." You can also join the registry at any time by filling out a "Document of Gift" form from the DMV. For more information, go to www.lifebanc.org and click on donor registry. Donor registry information for any state might be obtained from www.donatelife.net. You can also sign and carry an organ donor card. This card can be downloaded at: www.organdonor.gov. It is important to let your family members and loved ones know your desire to be a donor. You might also want to tell your family healthcare provider, lawyer, and religious leader that you would like to be a donor.
For some, receiving an organ transplant means no longer having to be dependent on costly routine treatments to survive. For others, an eye or tissue transplant means the ability to see again or the freedom from pain. Giving of yourself through organ donation means that you can help a host of other people who may now be able to live a fuller life because of your generosity.
For more information, please visit: www.organdonor.gov