When you hear about organ donation for the first time, it is natural to have a lot of questions about the process, what can be donated, and how you can register. This page will address some of these questions. For a more thorough collection of facts regarding organ donation, visit our Facts/Myths Page or visit the websites listed on our Additional Sources Page.
Why are Donations Needed?
- Every 10 minutes a new name is added to the national waiting list for organ transplants.
- While about 30,000 people do get the transplants they need each year, an average of 18 Americans die each day before the organs they need become available.
What Can be Donated?
- Organs including: the lungs, heart, pancreas, small intestine, kidneys, and liver
- Tissues including: eyes, ligaments, tendons, bones, heart valves, and skin
How do I Register?
- In Texas, you may register as a donor at www.donatelifetexas.org, at your local Department of Public Safety (DPS) office when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or identification card, or through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when you renew your vehicle’s registration.
- The registration process takes less than 5 minutes.
- There is no age requirement to register to be an organ donor. However, until you are a legal adult, your family’s consent is required. Young people are encouraged to register because families tend to agree to donation if their loved one took the time to commit their name to the registry. If you are a minor, it is important to share how you feel about organ donation with your family. For tips on how to start a conversation about organ donation visit our Discussing Donation Page.
- Go to our Become a Donor Page to learn more about the organ donor registry and how it works.
Who can be an Organ and Tissue Donor?
- Anyone from babies to the elderly can donate. People who have a history of IV drug use, are HIV positive, or have a few other medical conditions might be ruled “medically unsuitable”, but most people have the potential to be organ and/or tissue donors.
- A donor death must be established as brain death or circulatory death. Either way the patient must have died on a respirator. Brain death has occurred when the brain has permanently stopped working as determined by several medical professionals. Circulatory death is the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs.
- Hospital personnel contact the organ procurement organization (OPO), which then looks up the patient on the state registry, and dispatches a representative to evaluate the patient as a donation candidate. If the patient is a viable donor, the representative visits with the family. If the patient is registered, then the donation process will occur. If the patient is not registered, then the OPO must obtain family authorization. If the family wants to donate, the OPO counselor stays to coordinate all aspects of the donation, including obtaining a medical and social history of the patient from the family.
- Matching donor organs to transplant candidates is done by the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) computer. The UNOS computer searches for candidates who match the donor’s physical size and blood group. It also considers candidates’ medical status and length of time on the waiting list. The procurement coordinator contacts the selected patients’ physicians and offers the organs for transplantation.
- When the surgical teams arrive, the donor is taken to the operating room. After surgery, the funeral home prepares the body according to the family’s wishes.
Can I Donate Organs for Tissues Before Death?
- Yes, blood donors are always needed. Donors can begin as early as age 17 and give as frequently as every 8 weeks. Healthy bone marrow is another lifesaver. Potential donors can join a national bone marrow registry by contacting the local blood bank or phoning 1-800-MARROW2 for registration information. A third possibility, but one with far greater health risk to the donor, is kidney, partial liver, or partial lung donation. An individual who is close to someone who needs a kidney, lung, or liver transplant and would like to be considered as a donor should contact that person’s transplant center to see if donation is a possibility.
"The rich and famous will get preferential treatment if they need a transplant." - MYTH
- THE TRUTH - Celebrities and well-connected people cannot receive preferential treatment. Ethnicity, gender, religion, and financial status are not part of the matching system.