The basic facts of organ donation are simple. The more donors we have registered, the more lives we can save.
Understanding Organ Donation
Organ donation is defined as giving an organ, tissue, or part of an organ to another person through transplantation. Usually, a donation will come from a person who has recently passed; however, some organ and tissue types can come from a person that is still living. These are called “living donors”.
The Organ DonorIn order to use an organ from another person, the organ must receive a constant supply of blood and oxygen. This is why an organ donation usually occurs after a person has suffered an irreversible loss of brain function such as a stroke or head trauma.
Only after every effort has been attempted to save a person’s life, will the testing begin to see if the deceased is a candidate for organ donation. To do this, the organ procurement organization will check the state organ and tissue donor registry to see if the candidate has given permission for donation. If the person is not on the registry, next-of-kin is contacted to give authorization for organ transplant. This is why it is important for people that wish to become organ donors to be registered on the state registry and then to discuss their decision with their family and friends. Most allow you to register online. Most states allow you to register online and through their Department of Motor Vehicles. However, in Vermont, a person’s intent to be an organ donor is not yet linked to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Please see “The Drivers License Misconception” for more details. After all authorizations for donation are given, donation specialists then decide who will be the recipient of the organ or tissue. It is important to know that approximately 80% of organ transplants come from within the same state. This shows the importance of having a as many registrants as possible on each state registry. The Organ Recipient
Typically, a patient that needs to receive an organ will be referred to a transplant center. The transplant center will evaluate the patient, which includes assessing the patient’s physical and mental health, devising a plan for after transplant care, and making sure the patient has a solid support system. It is then up to the center to add the patient to the national organ donation transplant waiting list. Who Decides Who Receives the Organ Donation?
After being accepted, the patient’s information goes into a national database of transplant recipients. Although it is referred to as a “list”, it is more of a collection of people waiting for an organ transplant. This database is maintained by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) through a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. Everyone in the database is matched by donor characteristics. The waiting time a recipient could wait for an organ donation depends on the organ needed, the patient’s current health status, blood type and urgency. When an organ becomes available, an Organ Procurement Organization accesses the database and determines a list of possible recipients.