Questions & Answers about Organ and
Tissue Donation and Transplantation
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There are over 115,000 people in the United States depending on a life-saving organ transplant. Donated tissue prevents infection in burn victims, replaces bone devastated by cancer or injury, and restores sight to the blind. One registered donor can save and improve the lives of more than 50 people!
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What is the Donor Registry?
When you register as a donor, the information you provide is entered into a database that can only be accessed by a federally designated Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) and is only used for determining a donation decision. The professionals, who are responsible for your medical treatment, including hospital staff and Emergency Medical Technicians, do not have access to this confidential information. Joining the Donor Registry is first person consent for donation. You can register in-person at the DMV or AAA or online at www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org
What is first person consent?
The purpose of the Donor Registry is to support your decision to give the gift of life. If you are a registered donor, you have given your consent to donate organs and tissues. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), a law that gives individuals the right to donate organs and tissues, protects an individual’s donation decision.
I’m not 18 years old, can I still register as a donor?
In Connecticut, all drivers are asked if they would like to join the donor registry when they receive their driver’s license. At age 16-17, Connecticut residents can register their intent to donate. Prior to age 18, the final decision about donation would be made by the legal next of kin. At age 18, registering as a donor is first person consent. Please remember that, prior to age 18, you are empowering your family member to make an informed decision about donation.
Organ procurement organizations, are non-profit, federally designated organizations that facilitate the organ and tissue donation process. OPOs are responsible for honoring an individual’s decision to donate when they have joined a donor registry and providing compassionate support to families. OPOs also evaluate potential donors for medical suitability, assist with the placement of organs for transplant, and facilitate the recovery of both organs and tissues.
What does “Routine Notification” mean?
All hospitals are required by federal law to contact their local OPO when a patient dies. When the hospital calls, OPO staff will consult the Donor Registry and determine if the individual is medically suitable to donate. This referral process is in place to honor the rights of registered donors and to ensure that a family is able to make a decision about donation when their loved one has not documented their wishes.
When the brain is injured, it responds like other injuries—it swells. However, the brain is confined within the skull and has no room to expand. This results in death. Brain death is the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain function. Standards for the determination of brain death are very strict, and death based on the absence of brain function is legally recognized in every state. Brain death can occur following a catastrophic brain injury, such as a brain aneurysm or severe trauma to the head. Even though the heart and lungs continue to function temporarily with artificial respiratory support so they are suitable for transplant, there is no chance for recovery because the patient is dead.
Organs that may be donated after death include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, bone, heart valves, connective tissue and blood vessels.
How are recipients matched to donor organs?
People waiting for transplants are listed at their local transplant center and on a national waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS is responsible for overseeing organ placement and providing fair and equitable placement of donated organs. When an organ becomes available, several factors are taken into consideration. These factors include blood and tissue type and size of the donor and transplant candidate and the candidate’s medical condition, time spent on the waiting list, and urgency of need. Geographic location is also a factor, as timing is critical and transportation times must be kept to a minimum.
If the hospital knows that I am a donor, will they work as hard to save my life?
Absolutely! The primary goal of the hospital staff and Emergency Medical Technicians is to save your life. The team that is responsible for your care is solely focused on doing everything possible to help you. In fact, the individuals responsible for the recovery of organs and tissues are not notified until after it has been determined that all efforts to save a life have been exhausted.
Is there any cost to the donor or their family for organ and tissue donation?
No. Neither the donor nor their family pays for or receives payment for organ or tissue donation. All costs directly associated with donation are paid by the OPO.
Does organ and tissue donation leave the body disfigured?
No. The removal of organs and tissues is performed by qualified doctors and recovery staff in a sterile environment. All donors are treated with respect and care during the entire recovery process. Organ and tissue donation does not interfere with an open-casket viewing.
Do most religions support organ and tissue donation?
Most religions view donation as the ultimate act of charity and an unparalleled gift of generosity and compassion. For specific religious beliefs, please visit the Donate Life New England website at www.donatelifenewengland.org
Is registering through Donate Life New England similar to signing up to be a donor on my driver’s license?
Yes. Registering with Donate Life New England is simply one more way to make your donation wishes known. Many donors may even wish to register through both Donate Life New England and their state motor vehicle office. However, if you register in both places and change your mind about donation, be sure to remove yourself from both donor registries as well.
Where can I get more information?
Please contact Caitlyn Bernabucci, Public Education Specialist, LifeChoice Donor Services, Windsor, CT at 860-286-3120 or firstname.lastname@example.org