Deceased donation includes organ, cornea and tissue donation.
Deceased organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ, at the time of the donor’s death, for the purpose of transplantation to another person. Cornea donation restores sight and tissue donation helps save and heal lives.
How Does the Process Work?
Waiting for a Transplant
When someone’s organ fails, he or she may be evaluated for a potential transplant and placed on the national waiting list.
The list is very long and not everyone survives while waiting for a donor.
Donors of all ages are needed.
In the United States, it is illegal to buy or sell organs and tissue for transplantation.
Becoming a Donor
A person who has sustained a severe brain injury, such as from an accident, stroke or lack of oxygen, is put on artificial support.
Doctors work hard to save the patient’s life, but sometimes there is a complete and irreversible loss of brain function. The patient is declared clinically and legally dead. Only then is donation an option.
The hospital contacts the organ procurement organization (OPO), which checks the donor registry. If the person is registered, the OPO will inform the family. If not, the family will be asked to authorize donation.
Donation can provide solace to a grieving family.
There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for donation.
All major religions support donation as a final act of compassion and generosity.
Finding a Match
A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list.
Blood type, body size, how sick, donor distance, tissue type and time on list are among criteria considered.
Race, income, gender, celebrity and social status are never considered.
Once matches are found, the wait-listed patients are contacted by their transplant teams.
Organs are recovered from the donor with care and respect, and sent to hospitals for transplantation.
Transplants restore lives and return patients as active members of their families and communities.
In order for a person to become an organ donor, blood and oxygen must flow through the organs until the time of recovery to ensure viability. This requires that a person die under circumstances that have resulted in a fatal brain injury, usually from massive trauma resulting in bleeding, swelling or lack of oxygen to the brain.
Only after all efforts to save the patient’s life have been exhausted, tests have been performed to confirm the absence of brain or brainstem activity, and brain death has been declared, is donation a possibility.
The state and national Donate Life Registries are searched securely online to determine if the patient has personally authorized donation. If the potential donor is not found in the Registry, his or her next of kin or legally authorized representative (usually a spouse, relative or close friend) is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation. Once the donation decision is established, the family is asked to provide a medical and social history. Donation and transplantation professionals determine which organs can be transplanted and to which patients on the national transplant waiting list the organs are to be allocated.
More About the Organ Donation Process
Although there have been advances in medical technology, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. Donate Life America is working to increase the number of registered organ donors and develop a culture where organ donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility.