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 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:
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.
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:
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:
Breeze is an online program from Lahey to help facilitate organ donations from living donors.