Distribution of Organs
How are donated organs distributed?
Patients are matched to organs based on a number of factors, including blood and tissue typing, medical need, time on the waiting list and geographical location.
The Transplant Waiting List
How many people are currently waiting for each type of organ to become available so they can have a transplant?
Who Is Eligible To Donate
Who can become a donor?
What Can Be Donated
•Organs: heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines
•Tissue: cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels, and connective tissue
•Bone marrow/stem cells, umbilical cord blood, peripheral blood stem cells
To learn more about donating bone marrow or a cord blood unit, see:
- Donating marrow
- Donating umbilical cord blood to a public bank
Will My Wishes Be Carried Out
If I sign a donor card or indicate my donation preferences on my driver’s license, will my wishes be carried out?
Even if you sign a donor card, it is essential that your family also know your wishes regarding organ donation, so discuss your preference with them as soon as possible. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur, and if they say no, the hospital may refuse to accept your organs.
If you wish to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact your local organ procurement organization (OPO). The OPO can advise you of specific local procedures, such as joining donor registries that are available to residents in your area.
Can I sell my organs?
Match Testing for Living Donation
If I would like to donate a kidney to someone I know who is in need, how can I be tested to see if I am a match?
Within the United States, living donations of a kidney can be made to a family member, friend or anyone on the waiting list. Living donations are arranged through one of several transplant centers throughout the U.S. Before anyone can be considered as a donor, the individual must undergo a complete physical, as well as a psychosocial evaluation by the transplant center where they intend to make the donation. Two good sources of information are the Living Donation Page of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) website (http://www.unos.org/living_donation.asp) and the National Kidney Foundation website (http://www.kidney.org/atoz/atozItem.cfm?id=48). UNOS is a federal contractor that manages the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) -- www.optn.org. You can call UNOS’ toll-free number with any questions you may have about living donation, transplant centers or the transplant process. The number is 1-888-TXINFO1 (894-6361).
Organ Donation Costs
Are there any costs to my family for donation?
Minorities and Organ Donation
Why should minorities be particularly concerned about organ donation?
Minorities overall have a particularly high need for organ transplants because some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver are found more frequently in racial and ethnic minority populations than in the general population. For example, Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than whites to suffer from end-stage kidney disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions that can damage the kidneys. And Native Americans are four times more likely than whites to suffer from diabetes. Some of these conditions that can result in organ failure are best treated through transplantation and others can only be treated by this life-saving procedure. In addition, similar blood type is essential in matching donors to recipients. Because certain blood types are more common in ethnic minority populations, increasing the number of minority donors can increase the frequency of transplants in minority candidates.
For more information on minorities and organ donation, visit the website of the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program at www.mottep.org (not a U.S. Government website).
Organ and Body Donation
Can I be an organ and tissue donor and also donate my body to medical science?
Medical Conditions and Donation
If I have a previous medical condition, can I still donate?
Previous medical conditions do not automatically preclude a person from donating his or her organs. As is the case with all potential donors, transplant professionals will evaluate the condition of your organs at the time of your death and determine if your organs are suitable for donation. If you wish to be an organ and tissue donor, indicate your intent to donate on your driver's license, donor card or state donor registry, and discuss your decision with family members.
Nonresident Aliens and Donation/Transplantation
Can nonresident aliens donate and receive organs?
Organ Donor Age Requirements
Are there age limits for donors?
Donation and Open-Casket Funerals
Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket funeral?
Donor Medical Care
If I sign a donor card, will it affect the quality of medical care I receive at the hospital?
Absolutely not. The medical team trying to save your life is independent of the transplant team. Every effort will be made to save your life before donation is considered.