Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to your questions about organ, eye and tissue donation.

Answers

Who can be a donor?

People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated.

A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type and time on the list. Sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, race, income, celebrity and social status are never considered.

What can be donated?

The list of organs and tissues that can be successfully transplanted continues to grow. So does your ability to save and heal lives as a deceased organ, eye and tissue donor. One donor can save up to eight lives, restore sight to two people through cornea donation, and heal more than 75 lives through tissue donation. Here’s what can be donated:

Organs
heart
kidneys
liver
lungs
pancreas
intestines

Tissues
eyes/corneas
heart valves
bone and associated tissue
skin
veins and arteries
nerve

Living donation and VCA (hands and face) donation are not included in your deceased donor registration.

How does the deceased donation process work?

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. 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 donor registry and National Donate Life Registry are searched securely online to determine if the patient has authorized donation. If the potential donor is not found in a registry, their next of kin or legally authorized representative is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation. Donation and transplantation professionals follow national policy to determine which organs can be transplanted and to which patients on the national transplant waiting list the organs are to be allocated. Read more about the deceased donation process.

Does my religion support organ, eye and tissue donation?

All major religions support donation as a final act of compassion and generosity. Visit this page for more in-depth information on religious views on organ, eye and tissue donation.

Is there a cost to be an organ, eye and tissue donor?

There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for donation. The donor family pays only for medical expenses before death and costs associated with funeral arrangements.

Does donation affect funeral plans?

Funeral arrangements of your choice are possible, including a viewing. Through the entire donation process the body is treated with care and respect. Following donation, funeral arrangements can continue as planned.

Does registering as a donor change my patient care?

Your life always comes first. Doctors work hard to save every 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.

Can someone who is gay become an organ, eye or tissue donor?

Sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression does NOT prevent someone from registering as an organ donor. Everyone is encouraged to register their decision to be an organ donor at RegisterMe.org. However, certain regulations mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may affect a person’s eligibility for eye and tissue donation. Find out more information on our LGBTQ+ FAQ page.

Can someone who is living with HIV be an organ donor?

Passed in 2015, the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE) Act provides donation and transplantation opportunities for people living with HIV. As of December 2020, more than 200 lifesaving transplants have been made possible because of the HOPE Act and the generosity of donors and donor families.

Does my social and/or financial status play any part in whether or not I will receive an organ if I ever need one?

No. A national system matches available organs from the donor with people on the waiting list based on blood type, body size, how sick they are, donor distance, tissue type and time on the list. Race, income, gender, celebrity and social status are never considered.

Why is it important for people of every community to donate?

Although donation and transplantation can take place successfully between individuals from different racial or ethnic groups, transplant success is often better when organs are matched between people of the same racial or ethnic background.

People of African American/Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native and multiracial descent currently make up nearly 58% of individuals on the national organ transplant waiting list. These communities are in great need of more organ and tissue donors.

Can someone who tests positive for COVID-19 be a donor?

Organ procurement organizations test all potential deceased donors for COVID-19 prior to offering the organs for transplant. Potential donors who test positive with active COVID-19 would not be able to donate. If someone recovers from COVID-19, then passes away from something unrelated, donation may be possible. 

If you are considering becoming a living donor, you will work with your health care team to receive a series of health screenings to determine your eligibility, which includes COVID-19 testing. If you test positive for COVID-19, you would not be eligible for living donation until your care team determines donation is safe for you and your recipient.

Are transplant recipients at higher risk for COVID-19?

The American Society of Transplantation has published a Transplant Community FAQ resource providing detailed information for transplant recipients regarding COVID-19. The FAQ document is regularly updated with current information. Please contact your transplant program care team for further questions about your health needs.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The COVID-19 vaccine FAQ sheet from the American Society of Transplantation is a helpful resource regarding vaccine safety. Please contact your transplant program care team for further questions about your health needs.

Why authorize donation for research with your donor registration?

Not all donated organs, eyes, and tissues are able to be used for transplant. Donated organs, eyes and tissues that are not recovered for transplant may be used for medical research and education if the donor (or family, if there is not a donor registration) authorizes it. Non-transplantable organs, eyes and tissues help save and heal lives by allowing researchers to find new ways to treat disease.

I want to learn more about living donation. Where should I look?

Living organ donation offers another choice for some transplant candidates, reducing their time on the waiting list and leading to better long term outcomes for the recipient. Living tissue donation, birth tissue, is used to promote healing and to treat burns and painful wounds. Learn more about living donation.

How do I learn more about registering to be a donor?

Please visit our Donor Registration FAQs.

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