How Donation Works

How Organ & Tissue Donation Works

Family Members holding Hands

The right donor, the right time, the right place, the right recipient. It all must align to honor the decision to donate and provide the gift of hope and life to people in need.

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Referral & Evaluation

Federal regulations require hospitals to notify Gift of Hope each time a patient dies or is about to die so we can determine if he or she is a potential donor. We review the patient’s medical condition and history to establish initial eligibility.


Authorization for Tissue & Organ Donation

If we determine the patient is medically eligible, a Gift of Hope representative visits the hospital. They review the patient chart and meet with the doctors and the patient care team. We meet with family members at the appropriate time to discuss donation as part of “what comes next” for their loved one. If the death did not occur in the hospital, we call the family to share information about tissue donation and to ask for their support of tissue donation. Then, we gather a health history from the family by phone.

Tanisha & Vicki


Family Approach

If the patient is a registered donor, we review the affidavit of donor registration with the family, explain the donation process, answer questions and provide any support the family may need. If the patient is not a registered donor, we offer the option of donation, as required by state and federal regulations. Our Donation Specialist, in conjunction with hospital staff, discusses these options with the family and requests authorization for donation.


Donor Evaluation & Care

After authorization, we ask the family for medical and social information about the potential donor. This information helps us determine which organs and tissues may be transplanted and helps us identify anything that may put a transplant recipient at risk.

Meanwhile, our Organ Recovery Coordinator assumes care of the donor. We conduct a thorough physical exam, maintain the donor’s body by artificial means and stabilize the donor with fluids and medications. We also conduct tests to determine which organs are suitable for transplant and send medical information about the donor to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for matching with potential recipients.

Matching Recipients


Matching Recipients

Our Allocation Coordinator receives a list of possible “matches” from UNOS, the organization that maintains the national transplant waiting list. The coordinator calls the transplant center for the potential recipient who tops the list for each organ. The recipient’s transplant surgeon or another representative of the transplant team accepts or declines the organ. If declined, we contact the next potential recipient’s surgeon. This process continues until all organs are placed.


Organ & Tissue Recovery

Once all organs are placed, our Organ Recovery Coordinator secures an operating room at the donor hospital and coordinates the arrival of the transplant surgery teams. Ventilator support is then removed, and organ recovery takes place. The donor’s organs are removed in a surgical procedure that respects the nature of the gift being offered. Most organs are taken directly to recipients by the surgical recovery teams.

If the donor also is donating tissue, recovery can occur up to 24 hours after death has been declared. Unlike organs, which must be transplanted within hours of donation, most tissue is stored and supplied to physicians when needed for their patients.

Family Members holding Hands


Family Support

Before the family leaves the hospital, a Gift of Hope representative provides information to review at home and a telephone number in case questions arise. If the family requests, we call to confirm the completion of the recovery surgery. Many families also request information about donation to share at their loved one’s funeral services.

Within a few weeks, our Donor Family Services staff sends a letter to the donor’s family confirming the organs and tissues that were donated along with general information about the organ transplant recipients (excluding names). Our staff continues to offer information, programs and services to the family for as long as they wish as part of our aftercare services for donor family members. This includes grief management resources, counseling referrals and opportunities for communicating with other donor families and transplant recipients.

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