Can you still choose to donate if you are younger than 18 years of age?
Yes, any individual who is 15 1/2 years old or older and holds a valid Ohio driver license, learner’s permit or State ID card, can authorize the donation of their organs, tissue and eyes by joining the Ohio Donor Registry at their local Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office, by filling out and mailing in a registration form, or on-line at www.lifelineofohio.org.
Once an individual is on the Ohio Donor Registry, no one else has to provide authorization for the donation. However, for individuals 15 1/2 to 18 years old, their parents or legal guardians can revoke or amend their authorization for donation.
Can you donate an organ while you are still alive?
Certain kinds of transplants can be done through the generosity of living donors. Almost 36 percent of all kidney transplants are performed with living donors, who are often related to the person needing the transplant. People can live normal lives with just one healthy kidney.
Also, there are new methods of transplanting a part of a living adult’s liver to a child who needs a liver transplant. Parts of a lung or pancreas from a living donor can also be transplanted.
Lifeline of Ohio does not facilitate living donation, but you can learn more about it here.
What is the maximum age for organ donation?
Anyone of any age can be an organ donor. You are never too old to be considered for donation. The people who are waiting for a transplant would take any organ offered to them rather than become one of the 22 people each day who die while waiting. The oldest donor to date donated a liver at the time of his death at the age of 92.
What can be donated?
Organs that can be donated include: Kidneys, Heart, Liver, Lungs, Pancreas, and Small Intestine.
Tissues that can be donated include: Heart Valves, Corneas, Skin, Bone, Ligaments, Tendons, Fascia and Veins.
Donated tissues may need to be modified and/or processed to meet the needs of patients. Because of the generous gift of thousands of Americans each year, more than 1 million individuals have their life improved and are able to heal from injuries, burns, diseases, deformities and other events that would significantly impair their ability to function in their day to day lives. The gifts are provided to medical professionals with the understanding that they are to be used for these purposes. Other use is discouraged and cosmetic uses of the product are not promoted by the tissue processing organizations.
Lifeline of Ohio and the other recovery agencies are not-for-profit, but some for-profit agencies may be involved in the processing and distribution of the donated tissue. The priority for the use of the tissues will be within the United States; however, the tissues may be needed in areas outside of the United States.
See our interactive body for more on what can be donated.
Why should you consider becoming an organ and tissue donor?
Advances in medical science have made transplant surgery extremely successful. Transplantation is no longer considered experimental, but rather a desirable treatment option. The major problem is obtaining enough organs for the growing number of Americans who need them. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans waiting for organs to become available so that they can have a second chance at life. Sadly, there are not enough organ donors to meet the growing need, resulting in the deaths of 22 men, women, or children each day.
What if members of your family are opposed to donation?
Talking to your family about your desire to be an organ and tissue donor and educating them about the facts of donation and transplantation are important steps to make your family feel comfortable with your decision. In the state of Ohio, if you are 15 1/2 years old or older, and have a driver license, learner’s permit or state I.D., you may register your decision with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as an advanced directive, but you should still inform your family of your decision. For individuals between 15 1/2 and 18 years of age, their parents or legal guardians can revoke or amend this authorization. If you are 18 years old or older, your legal next-of-kin cannot revoke or amend your authorization.
What if you change your mind about donation?
If you change your mind, you should let your family know and change your decision in the Ohio Donor Registry online or by completing and returning the enrollment form with the appropriate box (add or remove) checked.
Does the family have to pay for the cost of organ/tissue donation?
No. The donor’s family neither pays for, nor receives payment for organ and tissue donation. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs in attempts to save the donor’s life, as well as funeral expenses, remain the responsibility of the donor’s family. All costs related to donation are paid by the organ/tissue recovery agencies or the transplant center.
Will the quality of medical treatments and the efforts to save your life be lessened if emergency or medical personnel know you are willing to be a donor?
No. A transplant team does not become involved until independent physicians involved in the patient’s care have determined that all possible efforts to save the patient’s life have failed.
Does organ donation leave the body disfigured?
No. The recovery of organs and tissues is conducted in an operating room under the direction of qualified surgeons and neither disfigures the body nor changes the way it looks in a casket.
Is it permissible to sell human organs?
No. The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507) prohibits the sale of human organs. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. Among the many reasons for this rule is the concern of Congress that buying and selling organs might lead to inequitable access to donor organs with the wealthy having an unfair advantage.
How are recipients matched to donor organs?
Persons waiting for transplants are listed at the transplant center where they plan to have surgery, and are placed on a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant patients in the United States. Under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the National Transplant Waiting List. UNOS operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and maintains a 24-hour telephone service to aid in matching donor organs with patients on the national waiting list and to coordinate the efforts with transplant centers.
When donor organs become available, several factors are taken into consideration in identifying the best-matched recipient(s). These include medical compatibility of the donor and potential recipient(s) on such characteristics as blood type, weight and age. Urgency of need, and length of time on the waiting list are also factors in the allocation process. In general, preference is given to recipients from the same geographic area as the donor because timing is a critical element in the organ procurement process.
What is brain death?
Death occurs in two ways: 1) from cessation of cardio-pulmonary (heart-lung) function; or 2) from the cessation of brain function (brain death). Brain death occurs when a person has an irreversible, catastrophic brain injury, which causes all brain activity to permanently stop. In such cases, the heart and lungs can continue to function if artificial-support machines are used. However, these functions will also cease when the machines are discontinued. Brain death is an accepted medical, ethical, and legal fact. The standards for determining that someone is brain dead are strict. Tissue donation can occur after either type of death, but organ donation can only occur after brain death.
Can rich or famous people “jump” the waiting list to get a transplant faster than others on the list?
No. Matching organs to recipients is based strictly on medical criteria and has nothing to do with notoriety or wealth. The process for matching a recipient with a donor is dependent upon how sick an individual is and who is the best match for the organ. Occasionally, it may seem that rich or famous individuals receive transplants more often, but that is simply because as a society we pay attention when these people receive transplants and not when people from the general public receive transplants.
Why are people who jeopardized their health with alcohol and drugs still eligible for a transplant?
Chemical dependency is a disease, not unlike other disease processes. People who are chemically dependent and need liver transplants must be clean of all drugs and alcohol for six months and have undergone rehabilitation. Would we deny someone a heart transplant because they ate too many French fries in their life?
What if I want to donate my body to science?
Lifeline of Ohio is often asked whether they facilitate whole body donation, as part of their commitment to the community to save and heal lives. The gift of whole body donation is facilitated through anatomical gift programs, medical school department of anatomy or schools of medicine, not through organ procurement organizations.
Each whole body donation program has their own donation protocol and oftentimes an individual must pre-arrange an agreement with the program for full body donation to take place. Each program may have different requirements and criteria, including whether or not an individual can donate organs, tissues and/or corneas prior to their acceptance into the whole body donation program. If you are interested in whole body donation, Lifeline of Ohio encourages you to contact the program you are interested in donating to for further information – Whole Body Donation Programs.