FAQs

Following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

How do I become a donor?

Two easy ways:
(1) Sign up online now
(2) Check “yes” for organ and tissue donation when you get or renew your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID. Your donor designation will be indicated by a red heart on the front of your license or ID card and in your computer record with the Delaware Department of Transportation. In addition, make sure to share your decision with your loved ones. There is no fee to place the organ donor designation on your driver’s license or photo ID.

 

Who can be a donor?

Anyone can decide to be a donor. If you are under age 18, however, you’ll need a parent or guardian’s signature to have the donor designation placed on your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID card. The ability to donate is determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of death and age is not a prohibiting factor – people as old as 85 have become donors.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Life-saving organs for transplant include the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Tissues, such as bone, ligaments and tendons, can be donated and are needed to repair injured or diseased joints and bones. Corneas, heart valves, veins and skin may also be donated.

How many people can be helped through donation?

One organ, tissue and corneal donor may directly save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Make your license a license to heal. Sign Up Now!

How many people are currently awaiting an organ transplant?

There are currently over 123,001 people on the national waiting list. Over 400 Delawareans are waiting for an organ transplant.  The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month.

Why are there so many people on the transplant waiting list?

As medical advances grow and transplants become a viable and successful option for treating serious conditions, more people continue to be added to the national waiting list. However, the number of donors is not keeping pace with the ever-growing list of people waiting for organs and tissue. Each day, 18 people in the United States die while waiting for organ transplants and every 12 minutes, another person's name is added to the waiting list. Today, more than 123,001 U.S. patients are awaiting a transplant that will save their lives; hundreds of thousands more hope for life-enhancing tissue transplants. Only 50.02% of Delawareans are registered organ and tissue donors.

What are the steps involved in organ and tissue donation?

Hospitals are required by law to notify the local organ procurement organization (OPO) of the impending death of a patient. The OPO staff will determine if that patient can be a potential organ and/or tissue donor. If the patient is medically suitable, a trained transplant coordinator will visit the hospital to further evaluate the patient and offer the option for donation to the next of kin. Once the family consents, the coordinators work with the national computerized waiting list at UNOS to match the donated organs with the most appropriate recipient(s) and arrange for the recovery surgery. They also stay with the donor's family and provide support as long as the family wishes. Immediately after the organ(s) are surgically removed from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs to the transplant centers, where the recipients have been readied for surgery.

How are donated organs allocated?

Donated organs go to patients based on match with donor’s height, weight and blood type; medical urgency and time on the waiting list. A person’s age, gender, race, ethnic origin or wealth do not affect who receives available organs.

How are recipients matched to donors?

Individuals waiting for transplants are listed by the transplant center in their area. Their names then go into a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant patients in the United States maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS coordinates a 24-hour, 7 day/week service to match donor organs with patients on the national waiting list and to coordinate efforts with transplant centers. When donor organs become available, the organ procurement organization (such as Gift of Life Donor Program) provides UNOS with information about the medical characteristics of the donor and specific organs, including medical compatibility between the donor and potential recipient(s) on such characteristics as blood type, weight, and height; as well as the recipients' urgency of need; and length of time on waiting list. Also, preference is generally given to recipients from the same geographic area as the donor, because timing is a critical element in the success of transplants.

Can I donate organs to a friends or loved one awaiting a transplant?

National organ allocation guidelines allow families of donors to designate recipients, usually family members or friends. Directed or designated donation, as it is commonly called, is an option. However, successful designated donations are so rare that the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that oversees transplants in the United States, does not track them.

Living donation is also an option. If you are interested in donating an organ to a friend or loved one awaiting a transplant, please visit an area transplant center for evaluation. Usually blood type and weight of both the donor and potential recipient play an important role in determining if the organ will be a match for both directed and living donation.

Will health problems or old age keep me from being a donor?

No. Everyone, regardless of age or health, should consider themselves a potential donor. A person’s physical condition, not his or her age, determines potential for organ and tissue donation and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Can I sell my organs?

The buying and selling of organs and tissues is illegal, as part of The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507).

Will paramedics, doctors and nurses make every effort to save my life if they know I am a donor?

YES -- absolutely. Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been declared. Doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. In fact, the medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team and they are dedicated to your complete recovery.

If a person wears glasses, has cataracts or glaucoma, can the person donate corneas?

Yes. Poor vision, cataracts and glaucoma do not eliminate someone's ability to donate. Suitability is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket?

Donation does not disfigure the body and will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Will my family have any say about the donation?

In some cases – such as the absence of any documentation of a person’s donation decision, such as a driver’s license or living will, or if someone is under 18 – the final decision about organ and tissue donation is made by the family. We suggest that in all instances it is important to share your decision to donate with your family so that they can understand and honor your decision. If you want to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact Gift of Life Donor Program.

Will there be any cost to my family, and will donation affect my funeral plans?

There are no costs to a person’s family for organ and tissue donation. Most transplants are covered by the recipients’ individual health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid programs. Patients should contact their physicians or health insurance company for more information. Donation does not conflict with cremation or an open-casket funeral.

How do I discuss organ and tissue donation with my family?

Many people are uncomfortable talking about death. Explain to your loved ones how your decision to donate at the time of your death will offer hope and a second chance at life to others whose lives can be saved or enhanced through transplantation.

Does my religion support donation?

All major organized religions support organ and tissue donation – as a way of helping others, as an individual’s right to choose and as an unparalleled gift of generosity and compassion. Find out your religion’s perspective. If you have specific questions, contact your religious advisor.

Why should minorities be particularly concerned about donation?

Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, liver and pancreas are prevalent in minority communities and can be treated through transplantation. Successful transplantation is often enhanced by the matching of organs between members of the same ethnic and racial group. More information on Minorities and Organ Donation and Transplantation:

Minority Organ Tissue Transplantation Education Program

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Minority Affairs Committee

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

Can non-resident aliens donate and receive organs?

Non-resident aliens can both donate and receive organs in the United States. During 2002 and 2003, 513 of the 26,090 organ donors were non-resident aliens, or less than two percent. Policies developed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) allow up to five percent of recipients at a transplant center to be from other countries. From 1995 to 2002, non-resident aliens accounted for only about one percent of more than 20,000 transplants performed annually. Organ allocation is based on the principles of equity and medical utility with the concept of justice applied to both access (consideration) as well as allocation (distribution).

How do I become a donor?

Two easy ways:
(1) Sign up online now
(2) Check “yes” for organ and tissue donation when you get or renew your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID. Your donor designation will be indicated by a red heart on the front of your license or ID card and in your computer record with the Delaware Department of Transportation. In addition, make sure to share your decision with your loved ones. There is no fee to place the organ donor designation on your driver’s license or photo ID.

 

Who can be a donor?

Anyone can decide to be a donor. If you are under age 18, however, you’ll need a parent or guardian’s signature to have the donor designation placed on your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID card. The ability to donate is determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of death and age is not a prohibiting factor – people as old as 85 have become donors.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Life-saving organs for transplant include the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Tissues, such as bone, ligaments and tendons, can be donated and are needed to repair injured or diseased joints and bones. Corneas, heart valves, veins and skin may also be donated.

How many people can be helped through donation?

One organ, tissue and corneal donor may directly save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Make your license a license to heal. Sign Up Now!

How many people are currently awaiting an organ transplant?

There are currently over 123,001 people on the national waiting list. Over 400 Delawareans are waiting for an organ transplant.  The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month.

Why are there so many people on the transplant waiting list?

As medical advances grow and transplants become a viable and successful option for treating serious conditions, more people continue to be added to the national waiting list. However, the number of donors is not keeping pace with the ever-growing list of people waiting for organs and tissue. Each day, 18 people in the United States die while waiting for organ transplants and every 12 minutes, another person's name is added to the waiting list. Today, more than 123,001 U.S. patients are awaiting a transplant that will save their lives; hundreds of thousands more hope for life-enhancing tissue transplants. Only 50.02% of Delawareans are registered organ and tissue donors.

What are the steps involved in organ and tissue donation?

Hospitals are required by law to notify the local organ procurement organization (OPO) of the impending death of a patient. The OPO staff will determine if that patient can be a potential organ and/or tissue donor. If the patient is medically suitable, a trained transplant coordinator will visit the hospital to further evaluate the patient and offer the option for donation to the next of kin. Once the family consents, the coordinators work with the national computerized waiting list at UNOS to match the donated organs with the most appropriate recipient(s) and arrange for the recovery surgery. They also stay with the donor's family and provide support as long as the family wishes. Immediately after the organ(s) are surgically removed from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs to the transplant centers, where the recipients have been readied for surgery.

How are donated organs allocated?

Donated organs go to patients based on match with donor’s height, weight and blood type; medical urgency and time on the waiting list. A person’s age, gender, race, ethnic origin or wealth do not affect who receives available organs.

How are recipients matched to donors?

Individuals waiting for transplants are listed by the transplant center in their area. Their names then go into a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant patients in the United States maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS coordinates a 24-hour, 7 day/week service to match donor organs with patients on the national waiting list and to coordinate efforts with transplant centers. When donor organs become available, the organ procurement organization (such as Gift of Life Donor Program) provides UNOS with information about the medical characteristics of the donor and specific organs, including medical compatibility between the donor and potential recipient(s) on such characteristics as blood type, weight, and height; as well as the recipients' urgency of need; and length of time on waiting list. Also, preference is generally given to recipients from the same geographic area as the donor, because timing is a critical element in the success of transplants.

Can I donate organs to a friends or loved one awaiting a transplant?

National organ allocation guidelines allow families of donors to designate recipients, usually family members or friends. Directed or designated donation, as it is commonly called, is an option. However, successful designated donations are so rare that the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that oversees transplants in the United States, does not track them.

Living donation is also an option. If you are interested in donating an organ to a friend or loved one awaiting a transplant, please visit an area transplant center for evaluation. Usually blood type and weight of both the donor and potential recipient play an important role in determining if the organ will be a match for both directed and living donation.

Will health problems or old age keep me from being a donor?

No. Everyone, regardless of age or health, should consider themselves a potential donor. A person’s physical condition, not his or her age, determines potential for organ and tissue donation and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Can I sell my organs?

The buying and selling of organs and tissues is illegal, as part of The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507).

Will paramedics, doctors and nurses make every effort to save my life if they know I am a donor?

YES -- absolutely. Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been declared. Doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. In fact, the medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team and they are dedicated to your complete recovery.

If a person wears glasses, has cataracts or glaucoma, can the person donate corneas?

Yes. Poor vision, cataracts and glaucoma do not eliminate someone's ability to donate. Suitability is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket?

Donation does not disfigure the body and will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Will my family have any say about the donation?

In some cases – such as the absence of any documentation of a person’s donation decision, such as a driver’s license or living will, or if someone is under 18 – the final decision about organ and tissue donation is made by the family. We suggest that in all instances it is important to share your decision to donate with your family so that they can understand and honor your decision. If you want to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact Gift of Life Donor Program.

Will there be any cost to my family, and will donation affect my funeral plans?

There are no costs to a person’s family for organ and tissue donation. Most transplants are covered by the recipients’ individual health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid programs. Patients should contact their physicians or health insurance company for more information. Donation does not conflict with cremation or an open-casket funeral.

How do I discuss organ and tissue donation with my family?

Many people are uncomfortable talking about death. Explain to your loved ones how your decision to donate at the time of your death will offer hope and a second chance at life to others whose lives can be saved or enhanced through transplantation.

Does my religion support donation?

All major organized religions support organ and tissue donation – as a way of helping others, as an individual’s right to choose and as an unparalleled gift of generosity and compassion. Find out your religion’s perspective. If you have specific questions, contact your religious advisor.

Why should minorities be particularly concerned about donation?

Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, liver and pancreas are prevalent in minority communities and can be treated through transplantation. Successful transplantation is often enhanced by the matching of organs between members of the same ethnic and racial group. More information on Minorities and Organ Donation and Transplantation:

Minority Organ Tissue Transplantation Education Program

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Minority Affairs Committee

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

Can non-resident aliens donate and receive organs?

Non-resident aliens can both donate and receive organs in the United States. During 2002 and 2003, 513 of the 26,090 organ donors were non-resident aliens, or less than two percent. Policies developed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) allow up to five percent of recipients at a transplant center to be from other countries. From 1995 to 2002, non-resident aliens accounted for only about one percent of more than 20,000 transplants performed annually. Organ allocation is based on the principles of equity and medical utility with the concept of justice applied to both access (consideration) as well as allocation (distribution).

How do I become a donor?

Two easy ways:
(1) Sign up online now
(2) Check “yes” for organ and tissue donation when you get or renew your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID. Your donor designation will be indicated by a red heart on the front of your license or ID card and in your computer record with the Delaware Department of Transportation. In addition, make sure to share your decision with your loved ones. There is no fee to place the organ donor designation on your driver’s license or photo ID.

 

Who can be a donor?

Anyone can decide to be a donor. If you are under age 18, however, you’ll need a parent or guardian’s signature to have the donor designation placed on your driver’s license, learner’s permit or photo ID card. The ability to donate is determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of death and age is not a prohibiting factor – people as old as 85 have become donors.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Life-saving organs for transplant include the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Tissues, such as bone, ligaments and tendons, can be donated and are needed to repair injured or diseased joints and bones. Corneas, heart valves, veins and skin may also be donated.

How many people can be helped through donation?

One organ, tissue and corneal donor may directly save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Make your license a license to heal. Sign Up Now!

How many people are currently awaiting an organ transplant?

There are currently over 123,001 people on the national waiting list. Over 400 Delawareans are waiting for an organ transplant.  The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month.

Why are there so many people on the transplant waiting list?

As medical advances grow and transplants become a viable and successful option for treating serious conditions, more people continue to be added to the national waiting list. However, the number of donors is not keeping pace with the ever-growing list of people waiting for organs and tissue. Each day, 18 people in the United States die while waiting for organ transplants and every 12 minutes, another person's name is added to the waiting list. Today, more than 123,001 U.S. patients are awaiting a transplant that will save their lives; hundreds of thousands more hope for life-enhancing tissue transplants. Only 50.02% of Delawareans are registered organ and tissue donors.

What are the steps involved in organ and tissue donation?

Hospitals are required by law to notify the local organ procurement organization (OPO) of the impending death of a patient. The OPO staff will determine if that patient can be a potential organ and/or tissue donor. If the patient is medically suitable, a trained transplant coordinator will visit the hospital to further evaluate the patient and offer the option for donation to the next of kin. Once the family consents, the coordinators work with the national computerized waiting list at UNOS to match the donated organs with the most appropriate recipient(s) and arrange for the recovery surgery. They also stay with the donor's family and provide support as long as the family wishes. Immediately after the organ(s) are surgically removed from the donor, the OPO staff transports the organs to the transplant centers, where the recipients have been readied for surgery.

How are donated organs allocated?

Donated organs go to patients based on match with donor’s height, weight and blood type; medical urgency and time on the waiting list. A person’s age, gender, race, ethnic origin or wealth do not affect who receives available organs.

How are recipients matched to donors?

Individuals waiting for transplants are listed by the transplant center in their area. Their names then go into a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant patients in the United States maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS coordinates a 24-hour, 7 day/week service to match donor organs with patients on the national waiting list and to coordinate efforts with transplant centers. When donor organs become available, the organ procurement organization (such as Gift of Life Donor Program) provides UNOS with information about the medical characteristics of the donor and specific organs, including medical compatibility between the donor and potential recipient(s) on such characteristics as blood type, weight, and height; as well as the recipients' urgency of need; and length of time on waiting list. Also, preference is generally given to recipients from the same geographic area as the donor, because timing is a critical element in the success of transplants.

Can I donate organs to a friends or loved one awaiting a transplant?

National organ allocation guidelines allow families of donors to designate recipients, usually family members or friends. Directed or designated donation, as it is commonly called, is an option. However, successful designated donations are so rare that the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that oversees transplants in the United States, does not track them.

Living donation is also an option. If you are interested in donating an organ to a friend or loved one awaiting a transplant, please visit an area transplant center for evaluation. Usually blood type and weight of both the donor and potential recipient play an important role in determining if the organ will be a match for both directed and living donation.

Will health problems or old age keep me from being a donor?

No. Everyone, regardless of age or health, should consider themselves a potential donor. A person’s physical condition, not his or her age, determines potential for organ and tissue donation and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Can I sell my organs?

The buying and selling of organs and tissues is illegal, as part of The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507).

Will paramedics, doctors and nurses make every effort to save my life if they know I am a donor?

YES -- absolutely. Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been declared. Doctors and nurses will do everything possible to save your life. In fact, the medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team and they are dedicated to your complete recovery.

If a person wears glasses, has cataracts or glaucoma, can the person donate corneas?

Yes. Poor vision, cataracts and glaucoma do not eliminate someone's ability to donate. Suitability is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket?

Donation does not disfigure the body and will not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open-casket viewings.

Will my family have any say about the donation?

In some cases – such as the absence of any documentation of a person’s donation decision, such as a driver’s license or living will, or if someone is under 18 – the final decision about organ and tissue donation is made by the family. We suggest that in all instances it is important to share your decision to donate with your family so that they can understand and honor your decision. If you want to learn how organ donation preferences are documented and honored where you live, contact Gift of Life Donor Program.

Will there be any cost to my family, and will donation affect my funeral plans?

There are no costs to a person’s family for organ and tissue donation. Most transplants are covered by the recipients’ individual health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid programs. Patients should contact their physicians or health insurance company for more information. Donation does not conflict with cremation or an open-casket funeral.

How do I discuss organ and tissue donation with my family?

Many people are uncomfortable talking about death. Explain to your loved ones how your decision to donate at the time of your death will offer hope and a second chance at life to others whose lives can be saved or enhanced through transplantation.

Does my religion support donation?

All major organized religions support organ and tissue donation – as a way of helping others, as an individual’s right to choose and as an unparalleled gift of generosity and compassion. Find out your religion’s perspective. If you have specific questions, contact your religious advisor.

Why should minorities be particularly concerned about donation?

Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, liver and pancreas are prevalent in minority communities and can be treated through transplantation. Successful transplantation is often enhanced by the matching of organs between members of the same ethnic and racial group. More information on Minorities and Organ Donation and Transplantation:

Minority Organ Tissue Transplantation Education Program

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Minority Affairs Committee

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

Can non-resident aliens donate and receive organs?

Non-resident aliens can both donate and receive organs in the United States. During 2002 and 2003, 513 of the 26,090 organ donors were non-resident aliens, or less than two percent. Policies developed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) allow up to five percent of recipients at a transplant center to be from other countries. From 1995 to 2002, non-resident aliens accounted for only about one percent of more than 20,000 transplants performed annually. Organ allocation is based on the principles of equity and medical utility with the concept of justice applied to both access (consideration) as well as allocation (distribution).