Transplant possible in only 2 percent of deaths
"Donation is a very rare opportunity," said Jill Ellefson of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Organ Procurement Organization. Donation is possible only if a person dies in a hospital while on a ventilator or breathing machine, Ellefson said. If a potential donor fits those requirements, hospitals will do a number of diagnostic tests to make sure organs are suitable for donation. They'll also look into medical histories.
About 85 percent of families will agree to donate a loved one's organs when asked, she said. And if a person had an orange donor sticker on his or her driver's license, the family will agree to donate in almost all cases.
"Even if they don't have a dot on their driver's license, we'd approach the next of kin," she said.
About half of drivers in Wisconsin have the donor dot on their licenses. A new online system for organ donation could increase the number of donors, Ellefson said. It allows people to register and give legal consent to have their organs donated when they die.
Medical costs related to the donations are charged to the person receiving the donation, she said. If someone makes a living donation, Wisconsin offers a tax credit of up to $10,000 to cover costs — such as travel expenses or missing work — not directly linked to the donation, she said. "Medical expenses are passed on to the recipient," Ellefson said. About 1,500 people in Wisconsin are waiting for donations, according to the state.