Frequently Asked Questions
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.
The 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.
Most people waiting for transplants need corneas or kidneys. Hearts, lungs and livers offer the greatest potential to save people’s lives.
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 legally dead. Medical eligibility depends on many factors and is determined after the donor’s death.
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.
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. To learn more click here.
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.
Organs must be removed as soon as possible after death has been declared to maintain the viability of the organs. Tissue may be removed within 12 to 24 hours after death.
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
Yes. Body size is critical to match donor and recipient hearts, livers and lungs, but genetic makeup also is important when matching kidneys.
The United Network for Organ Sharing maintains the national computerized listing of patients awaiting 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.
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.
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.
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. Click here to learn more.
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.