At this moment, more than 105,000 people are waiting for an organ. Four thousand more people are added to the national waiting list each day.
Each of these people is in desperate need of a kidney, liver, heart, or other organ. More than 6,500 people a year, about 18 a day, die before that organ ever becomes available.
Organ donors are always in short supply. There are far more people in need of a transplant than there are people willing to donate an organ.
Most of the organs that are available come from deceased donors. When you fill out an organ donor card with your driver’s license, you’re agreeing to donate all or some of your organs if you die.
A smaller number of organs come from healthy people. About 6,000 transplants from living donors are performed each year.
You might have wondered about donating an organ, either to a friend or relative who needs an organ right now, or by filling out an organ donor card. Before you decide to become an organ donor, here is some important information you need to consider:
Just about anyone, at any age, can become an organ donor. Anyone younger than 18 needs to have the consent of a parent or guardian
For organ donation after death, a medical assessment will be done to determine what organs can be donated. Certain conditions, such as having HIV, actively spreading cancer, or severe infection would exclude organ donation.
Having a serious condition like cancer, HIV, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease can prevent you from donating as a living donor.
Organ donation is major surgery. All surgery comes with risks such as bleeding, infection, blood clots, allergic reactions, or damage to nearby organs and tissues.
Although you will have anesthesia during the surgery as a living donor, you can have pain while you recover. Pain and discomfort will vary depending on the type of surgery. And you may have visible, lasting scars.
To donate your organs after death, you can either register with your state’s donor registry, or fill out an organ donor card when you get or renew your driver’s license.
To become a living donor, you can either work directly with your family member or friend’s transplant team, or contact a transplant center in your area to find out who’s in need of an organ.
There are some organs you can give up all or part of without having long-term health issues. You can donate a whole kidney, or part of the pancreas, intestine, liver, or lung. Your body will compensate for the missing organ or organ part. If it is determined that donating an organ would put your health at risk in the short term or long term, then you would not be able to donate.
It’s illegal to pay someone for an organ. The transplant program, recipient’s insurance, or recipient should cover your expenses from tests and hospital costs related to a living organ donation. The transplant program can go over what coverage is available for additional medical services. Some or all of your travel costs may also be covered.
As you decide whether to donate an organ as a living donor, weigh the benefits and risks very seriously. Remember that this is your decision, yours alone. Don’t let anyone sway that decision. Even if a friend or loved one is very sick, you have to consider how donating an organ might affect your own life. Remember that even though the donation process has started, you have the right to stop it at any time if you change your mind. Probably the greatest benefit of organ donation is knowing that you’re saving a life. That life might be your spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, a close friend, or a very grateful stranger.