Q: How serious is the organ shortage?
A: According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 110,000 people are on current waiting lists for organ transplants. One-third will die while waiting for organs. Thousands more are waiting for the gift of sight, or precious bone and other tissues that will save or improve their lives.
Q: Are there age limits for donors?
A: There are no age limitations on who can donate. The deciding factor is the person’s physical condition.
Q: How do I express my wishes to become an organ & tissue donor?
A: You can indicate your wish to become an organ & tissue donor by signing and carrying a donor card or specifying a donor intent on your driver's license. Most important DISCUSS YOUR DECISION WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND LOVED ONES.
Organ donor card
Q: What can I do if a member of my family becomes a potential organ donor?
A: If no one on the medical team suggests organ & tissue donation, as the next-of-kin, you should alert the medical staff of your loved one's wishes.
Q: What organs and tissues are needed for donation?
A: Organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and small intestines; and tissues such as bone, tendons, skin, heart valves, veins, connective tissue, and eyes are needed for donations. Blood, bone marrow, placenta, and cord blood can also be considered donated tissue.
Q: If I sign a donor card, will it affect the quality of medical care I receive at the hospital?
A: No! Every effort will be made to save your life before donation is even considered.
Q: Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket funeral?
A: Donation does not disfigure the body and does not interfere with having a funeral, including open casket services.
Q: Are there any costs to my family for donation?
A: The family does NOT pay for the cost of organ & tissue donation. All costs related to donation of organs & tissues are paid by the recipient, usually through their health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Q: Can I sell my organs?
A: No! The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507) makes it ILLEGAL to sell human organs & tissues.
Q: Can I be an organ & tissue donor and also donate my body to medical science?
A: Total body donation is an option, but not if you choose to be an organ & tissue donor. If you wish to donate your entire body, you can write to: University of Florida College of Medicine, PO Box 100235, Gainesville, FL 32610-0235 or call 1-800-628-2594.
Q: Do any organs & tissues go to waste?
A: No. Organs are matched with transplant recipients before they are removed. If the organs or tissues are not suitable for transplantation, they will be donated for research, which helps the medical community in its efforts to find cures for diseases. Written permission from next-of-kin must be obtained for research.
Q: What is a brain death?
A: Brain death is the determination when death has occurred. It occurs when the brain and the brain stem completely stop functioning. Once the brain cells die, there is no chance for recovery. Most organ donations occur when a person dies from brain death injuries.
Q: Why must artificial life support continue after brain death has been determined?
A: The ventilator or breathing machine provides oxygen to the organs, keeping them healthy until they are removed for transplant.
Q: Can an organ donation occur when someone has not died from brain injury?
A: There is a type of organ donation called donation after cardiac death (DCD) where the donor can experience a cardiac death (when the heart stops functioning). The donation occurs after the decision to withdraw life support is made and the person's heart actually stops beating. The recovery must take place within minutes of the cessation of heartbeat.
Q: Can a living person donate an organ?
A: Yes! A living person can donate one of their kidneys or a section of their liver or lungs.
Q: What are the benefits of organ & tissue donation?
A: Families who decide to donate often find that it helps them through the grieving process. They receive great comfort from having something positive come from the death of a loved one. For recipients, organ transplants offer a second chance at life. In the case of tissue recipients, their quality of life is enhanced.
Q: Which organ & tissue procurement agencies serve Health First?
A: We work with three state-licensed agencies:
TransLife Organ, Tissue, and Transplant Service
Southeast Tissue Alliance (SETA)
Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research
Q: Who is responsible for managing the organ donation process?
A: Florida’s four federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organizations (OPO) are exclusively responsible for facilitating the process, and only these OPO-authorized staff has access to both the donor and recipient medical information, which makes accurate matching possible.
Q: How do you determine who receives the organs?
A: Organs are allocated nationally based on a complex medical formula established by transplant doctors; public representatives, ethicists, and organ recover agencies. The United Network for Organ Sharing maintains the list of patients waiting for transplants. A donor’s blood type, tissue type, body weight, and size are matched against patients on the list. If there are multiple matches, priority is given to the sickest patients or, in the case of kidneys, those who have been on the waiting list the longest.
Q: If I suffer a grave injury, how does the process work?
A: All hospitals are required to contact their designated OPO when they identify a potential donor. When the OPO has been contacted, they check the Registry to see if the individual is registered to be an organ/and or tissue donor. If the individual is registered, this information will be shared with the family at the appropriate time, and they will be consulted about the donor’s medical/social history. The OPO also evaluates the medical suitability of the donor, and manages the medical care of the donor until transplantation can take place. The OPO will coordinate the transportation of the life-saving gifts with the surgeons who will perform the recovery operation and subsequent transplant surgeries.
Q: What if I don’t want my organs and/or tissues to be used for research?
A: Donated organs and tissues may be used for two purposes: transplantation and medical research. The Joshua Abbott Organ and Tissue Donor Registry allows you to opt out of donating organs and/or tissues for research. During the process, check off the “Donation Limitations” box and check the “For Research” box under both Organs and Tissues. If you have already signed up online or via the Department of Motor Vehicles, you may go to the registry web site, click on “Update My Donor Profile”, and specify your limitations.
Q: Can I specify which organs and tissues I donate?
A: Yes. By checking the “Donation Limitations” box on the first signup page (www.DonateLifeFlorida.org), the subsequent page allows you to opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissues or donating to medical research.
Q: If a family member is in need of an organ at the time of my death, can I specify that he or she is to receive it?
A: Directed donation of an organ to a specific individual is legal but it must be done at the time of donation. Directed donation is best supported by an advanced directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.
Q: I think I may need an organ transplant, how do I get added to the list?
A: The process of joining the national organ transplant waiting list begins with your physician referring you to a transplant center. The transplant center will then evaluate you to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for transplant.
Q: Does donation affect funeral arrangements?
A: The body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and the donor’s appearance following donation still allows for an open-casket funeral. Once the organ and/or tissue recovery process is completed, the body is released to the donor’s family and the family may then proceed with funeral arrangements.
Q: Who is responsible for administering the Registry?
A: Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration selected Donate Life Florida as the contracted vendor to create the Joshua Abbott Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. Donate Life Florida is a coalition of the state’s organ, tissue, and eye donor programs.
Q: What is the Registry’s relationship to the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles?
A: The Florida driver license and ID card application and renewal forms include the question, “Do you wish to register to be an organ and tissue donor?” Checking YES on the form automatically enrolls the applicant in Florida’s donor registry.
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