Donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and even save lives.
In case of tissue donation, for which most deceased persons can be potential donors, the local tissue recovery organization receives a referral from a hospital, medical examiner or funeral home notifying them that an individual has died. An initial determination of donor eligibility is made based on basic criteria and available information (i.e., age, cause of death, immediate evidence of infection, etc.). If it is determined that the deceased individual is a candidate for donation, the state donor registry is searched and one or more persons who know the potential donor (i.e. historians) are contacted for a medical and social history. 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. Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of death. Unlike organs, tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period of time for use in burn cases, ligament repair, bone replacement, etc. (American Association of Tissue Banks, 2010).
Each year, lifesaving and life-enhancing tissue is provided by approximately 30,000 tissue donors.
One tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people.