Who can be a donor? What organs are needed most? What organs and tissue can I donate? And what’s my religion’s stance on donation? The topic of organ and tissue donation can raise many questions. We’re here to provide the answers. View our donation FAQs to get the answers to common questions you may have about organ and tissue donation.
Major organs that can be donated for transplant are the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include the corneas, bone, saphenous and femoral veins, heart valves and skin.
What organs and tissue are most needed?
Most people waiting for transplants need corneas or kidneys. Hearts, lungs and livers offer the greatest potential to save people’s lives.
Who can be a donor?
Virtually anyone regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ and tissue donor. Donors are usually healthy people who have suffered a life-ending trauma and are declared dead. Medical eligibility depends on many factors and determined after the donor's death.
Are there costs associated with organ and tissue donation?
There is no cost to the donor's family or estate. Gift of Hope covers all costs associated with the donation. Organ donation is a gift; it is illegal in the United States to buy or sell organs or tissue.
Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?
Most religious groups support donation as the highest gesture of humanitarianism. Some religions have passed resolutions or adopted positions that encourage people to seriously consider donation and plan accordingly.
Does organ and tissue donation interfere with funeral arrangements?
Donors are treated with great dignity and respect throughout the donation process. Skilled surgeons and medical professionals recover organs and tissue in a surgical procedure that does not interfere with customary funeral arrangements. Open-casket visitation, burial and cremation all can occur.
When must organs be removed?
Organs must be removed as soon as possible after the determination of brain death while circulation and respiration are being maintained artificially. Tissue may be removed within 12 to 24 hours after death.
How long can organs and tissue survive before being transplanted?
Organs may be transported hundreds or thousands of miles to reach recipients waiting in transplant centers thanks to advances in medical technology and improved preservation techniques. Approximate preservation times are:
Heart/lung: 4 to 6 hours
Pancreas: 12 to 24 hours
Liver: Up to 24 hours
Kidneys: 48 to 72 hours
Corneas: Must be transplanted within 5 to 7 days
Heart valves, skin, bone, saphenous veins: 3 to 10 years
Can organs be donated to someone of a different race or ethnicity?
Yes. Body size is critical to match donor and recipient hearts, livers and lungs. But genetic makeup also is important when matching kidneys. For example, African-Americans will "match" better with a kidney donated from an African-American than any other race as will Asians with Asians, etc.
How is a potential recipient identified?
The United Network for Organ Sharing maintains the national computer system listing patients waiting for transplant. The system identifies recipients through a comprehensive evaluation of medical compatibility, assessing criteria such as body size, blood type, medical urgency and geographic location. The system does not consider recipients’ social or financial positions when determining who receives transplants.
How do I register to be an organ and tissue donor?
To ensure that your wishes to donate are honored, register your legal decision in Illinois by clicking the Become a Donor link on this page. If you live in Indiana, register here. In both states, you must be 18 to register. Be sure to inform family members about your wishes, so they’re aware of your decision. Learn more about becoming a donor here.
Can I change my mind after I sign up in the registry?
Will my quality of medical care ever be compromised if I register as a donor?
No. Donation is not considered until all possible efforts to save your life have failed and death has been declared. The transplant team has no involvement in patient care before death and is notified only after death has occurred.
What is a living donor?
A living donor has given part of an organ (liver, lung or pancreas) or one kidney from his/her own living body for transplantation, usually to a family member. A living donor's remaining kidney will do the work of two kidneys. Because kidneys are matched genetically, donation from a family member may be more successful than from an unrelated donor.
How can I become a living donor?
Transplant centers with living donor transplant programs coordinate living donations. Organizations like Gift of Hope coordinate donation after the donor’s death only. To learn more about becoming a living donor, talk to a transplant center that offers a program in your area.