Questions About Donation

Question: How do I become an organ and tissue donor?

You can sign up to become a donor by registering with Donate Life New England (link to form). By registering, you ensure that your decision to donate can be accessed and honored in a timely way when you die. You may remove yourself from the registry using a desktop computer(here).

Question: How serious is the organ shortage?

There are currently more than 110,000 men, women, and children in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant. More than 3,400 of these individuals live in the New England region. Every 12 minutes another name is added to the national waiting list and each day 18 people die while they wait for their transplant.

Question: What can be donated?

The miracle of donation and transplantation allows the donation of organs such as heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and intestines as well as tissue such as skin, veins, tendons, bone, bone marrow, heart valves and cornea. For safety and to provide for maximum use of the gift, donated tissue is processed using cutting-edged technology by non-profit and for-profit organizations such as LifeNet, CryoLife, LifeCell, Tissue Banks International and others.

Question: What are the criteria for becoming a donor?

Organs and tissues are donated and recovered only after death. Age and health considerations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death. There are very few absolute health exclusions to donation so everyone should consider themselves as good candidates for donation and register for donation if that is their wish.

Question: Will there be a cost to my family if I donate?

There is no cost to the family of donors for organ and tissue donation. All expenses related to the donation are paid for by the federally designated organ procurement organization.

Question: Does a patient who is rich or influential receive special consideration in organ distribution?

Although celebrities get most of the media attention, the fact is that thousands of other patients receive donated organs as well. Donor organs are matched to recipients based on blood and tissue type, geographic location and medical urgency. Organ allocation is blind to wealth or social status. Further, factors such as race, gender, age or celebrity status are not considered when determining who receives an organ.

Question: Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?

Most major religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation as one of the highest forms of giving and caring to others.

Question: If I'm registered to donate and I am admitted to a hospital, will they let me die so they can recover my organs?

No. The first responsibility of medical professionals is to save lives, and every effort will be made to save your life before donation is considered. Donation is only pursued as an option after all life-saving measures have failed and death is legally declared.

Question: What are the steps involved in organ donation and transplantation?

Hospitals notify the Organ Procurement Organization of the impending death of a patient. The OPO staff makes an initial determination about medical disqualifications for organ and tissue donation, and if there are none immediately apparent a trained donation professional goes to the hospital to further evaluate the patient and offer donation to the next of kin if the patient has not already consented to donation through a donor registry, driver's license or donor card. Using the national computerized waiting list, OPO staff match the donated organs with the most appropriate recipient(s) and arrange for the recovery surgery. They also stay with the donor's family and provide support as long as the family wishes. Immediately after the organ(s) are surgically removed from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs to the transplant centers, where the recipients have been readied for surgery. From the time death is declared, it can take between 12 to 18 hours for the organs and tissue donation to be completed. Funeral arrangements are made by the next of kin in the same way as if the deceased had not been a donor. After the donation takes place, the funeral director is notified and transportation to the funeral home is arranged.

Question: How are organs allocated to patients waiting for organ transplants?

Patients waiting for an organ transplant are registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The local federally designated organ procurement organization works with UNOS to allocate organs in a fair process based upon medical urgency, genetic matching and time waiting.

Question: Who pays for transplant surgery?

Most transplants are paid for by private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid programs. Patients can get detailed information from their physicians or health insurers.