Frequently Asked Questions About Donation
1. “If I’m admitted into the hospital and the doctors know I want to be a donor, will they still try and save my life?”
There is no conflict between saving lives and using organs for transplant. Medical professionals will do everything they can to save your life. The doctors who work to save your life are not the same doctors involved with organ donation. It is only after every attempt has been made to save your life, that donation will be discussed with your next-of-kin.
2. “I registered as a donor, so do I still have to tell my family that I want to be a donor?”
Whether you document your decision to donate in a donor registry or in a will, it is still recommended that you inform your family of your wishes to donate so there are no surprises at the time of your death. A will is accessed by the family well after death has occurred and is not used for verifying donation wishes.
3. “Won’t donation cost my family a lot of money if I become a donor?”
There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ or tissue donation. Hospital expenses incurred prior to brain death declaration and funeral expenses after the donation are the responsibility of the donor’s family. All costs related to donation are paid for by the organ procurement organization. In fact, many OPOs have dedicated staff to review hospital bills to ensure that donor families are never charged for donation-related expenses.
4. “Can I still have an open casket funeral if I am a donor?”
The donor’s body is treated with respect and dignity. The recovery of organs is conducted under standard, sterile conditions in an operating room by qualified surgeons or qualified recovery personnel. It is extremely unlikely that the process will disfigure the body, or change the way it looks in a casket.
5. “Will anyone want my organs and tissues? I think I’m way too old and I have been sick in the past.”
At the time of death, the appropriate medial professionals will review your medical and social history to determine if you are a candidate for donation. Anyone, regardless of age, can be considered for organ donation. With recent advances in transplant, more people than ever before can donate.
6. “How do I know that I will be really dead before my organs are procured?”
Organ donation only occurs after death has been determined by a doctor (in some states two doctors) not involved in transplant. To donate organs, a patient must be brain dead or meet the criteria for DCD.
7. “Can organs be given to different racial groups or individuals of the opposite sex?”
In most cases, race and gender are not factors. However, organ size is critical to match a donor heart, lung or liver with a recipient. Plus, people of similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to match each other than those of different racial heritage. Cross-racial donations can, and do, happen with great success when matches are available.
8. “Can the donor family meet the recipients?”
The identity of all parties is kept confidential. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive information such as age, sex, occupation and general location. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of death and the donor’s family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive information about the health status of the recipients. Donor families and recipients are encouraged to communicate with each other through the OPO. While the initial contact is anonymous, families and recipients may decide to communicate openly after a period of time and if both parties are interested, they may meet.