• Donating Organs After Death Facts

    In the U.S., registering as a deceased organ donor doesn't automatically grant doctors permission to harvest your organs. In the unfortunate event of the death of a healthy person, only the surviving family can authorize donation of the deceased person’s organs. With this in mind, if you want to become a donor, you should voice these wishes to your family. 

    The donor (or the family) may choose which organs to donate. The most common are heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and intestines. Some tissues can also be transplanted, most commonly corneas, skin and bone marrow.

    Registering as an Organ Donor

     Registering to become an organ donor is a great way to raise awareness, but it does not grant anyone the right to harvest your organs. This means that having a “Donor” sticker on your driver’s license won’t automatically give physicians the authorization to harvest your organs, nor will you receive poor medical attention because of it. 

    Due to the moral implications of donation, this process is very carefully monitored by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). They have ruled that to protect the donor, the only two ways to legally harvest organs are:

    • Getting permission from the family of the deceased 
    • Getting the consent directly from the donor before he or she undergoes certain risky medical procedures, such as brain surgery, for example 

    Possible Organ Donor Concerns

    One of the biggest misconceptions about organ donation is that donors may receive poor medical attention so that the doctors can harvest their organs. This is absolutely not true.

    The physicians who are attending to the donor are not associated with organ donation in any way, and their sole objective is to help the patient survive. It is in their best interest, career-wise, to keep you alive. The organ procurement organization isn’t called into the hospital until after the donor has been officially declared dead.

    The organ donor and his/her family do not pay for any donation-related costs. Obtaining organs is covered by the insurance of the recipient. The donor’s body will not be disfigured, which means that an open casket funeral can still take place after donation.

    The Role of UNOS in Organ Transplant and Donation

    UNOS is a nonprofit organization in charge of overseeing organ procurement and transplant across the U.S. They are contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    As the governing entity for all transplant activities, they perform the following roles:

    • Overseeing policy compliance and development 
    • Maintaining the national organ waiting lists 
    • Matching donated organs with transplant candidates 
    • Collecting statistical data on all transplant recipients and donors 
    • Overseeing all organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and ensuring ethical practices 

    About Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs)

    There are 58 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S., all under the supervision of UNOS. As their name states, they are in charge of obtaining organs, so they are the front-line contact with the deceased donor and their families.

    Each OPO is a nonprofit that serves a different region in the nation. Their roles include:

    • Getting permission from the family of the recently deceased donor to obtain organs 
    • Evaluating blood type, tissue type and condition of the organs, as well as checking for infections 
    • Working with UNOS to find suitable candidates for the organs 
    • Surgically extracting the organs that are to be donated 
    • Transporting the organs to their respective transplant centers 
    • Mediating possible communication between the recipient and the donor's surviving family 
    • Performing community outreach to increase the number of registered donors 
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