What is organ donation?

Organ Donation

Organ donor: Overview

Some people who are critically ill need an organ transplant to live. But there are a lot more organs needed than are available. Many people choose to donate organs upon their death.

  • If you decide to become an organ donor, you won't be denied life-saving care when you need it. State laws and emergency medical practices ensure that your life comes first.
  • If you have questions about organ donation, talk to your doctor, a trusted friend, or your faith leader.
  • Most religions allow organ donation.

What organs can be donated?

You can choose what organs and tissues you would like to offer for donation. Or you can choose to donate any organs that are needed. You can also choose to donate for transplant, for research, or for educational purposes.

Organs to donate include:

  • Heart.
  • Liver.
  • Pancreas.
  • Lungs.
  • Kidneys.
  • Intestines.
  • Hands.
  • Face.

Tissues to donate include:

  • Corneas.
  • Skin.
  • Bone.
  • Blood vessels.
  • Connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
  • Heart valves.
  • Middle ear.

Blood products include:

  • Bone marrow.
  • Stem cells.

Becoming an organ donor

The following tips can help you plan to be an organ donor.

  • Get more information.

    Most people can be organ donors. If you are interested in donating organs or tissues, contact the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) at 1-888-894-6361, or go online at www.transplantliving.org to learn more.

  • Put your name on your state's donor registry.

    Many states give you the option to become a donor when you apply for a driver's license or when you renew your license. Other states have a form you can fill out in person or online and file with a state organ donor registry. You can go to www.organdonor.gov to find your state registry. Either way, your name goes on a list of possible donors, and your status is noted on your driver's license. To find out what's required in your state, check with your doctor or call your local Department of Motor Vehicles office.

  • Let your family, friends, and doctor know.

    Include your wish to be an organ donor when you prepare a living will or advance directive.

People of any age can register to be organ donors. In many states there's no minimum age, though an adult might have to sign for someone under age 18.

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