Frequently Asked Questions About Donation and Transplantation
HOW DO I BECOME AN ORGAN AND TISSUE DONOR?
After discussing your wishes with your family, go to the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry at www.donatelifeky.org and complete the online registry form. Completing the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry form ensures that your wishes to help others will be carried out, in compliance with Kentucky’s “First Person Consent law.” Or join the donor registry next time you renew your driver’s license and have the donor heart symbol imprinted on your license.
IS THERE A NEED FOR ORGAN AND TISSUE DONORS?
YES! There are thousands of men, women and children in the United States in need of organ transplants. Due to the shortage of donated organs, only a small percentage of those waiting will actually receive their transplant. Some organs may be transplanted from a living donor, but the majority of organ transplants are dependent upon the generosity of families who donate the organs of their deceased loved ones.
WHAT CAN I DONATE?
Organs that can be donated for transplantation include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver and pancreas. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, saphenous veins, and tendons.
WHO CAN DONATE?
Age limitations may apply with some specific organs and tissues, but in general, anyone who wishes to donate should register through their state donor registry. Children under 18 can legally donate their organs/tissues with the consent of a parent or guardian.
CAN I CHANGE MY MIND AFTER I REGISTER ON THE DONOR REGISTRY? Yes. Log on to your state’s Registry and enter your password and you may change your intent to reflect your decision.
WHAT ARE THE ETHICS OF ORGAN AND TISSUE DONATION?
Faith leaders around the world support such donations as expressions of the highest humanitarian ideals. The gift of an organ or tissue essential to the life of another human being is consistent with the principals of Judeo-Christian teachings. If you have any question in this regard, consult your religious leader. (Religious views may be found in on the “faith based initiatives” page).
WHAT IS MEANT BY BRAIN DEATH?
Brain death may occur in patients who have suffered a severe injury to the head. As a result of the injury, the brain swells and obstructs its own blood supply. Without blood flow, all brain tissue dies. Artificial support systems may maintain functions such as heartbeat and respiration for a few days, but not permanently. Brain death is the established medical and legal diagnosis of death. Two physicians (unrelated to the transplant team) are required to confirm brain death, using a strict neurological examination.
WILL THE MEDICAL OR NURSING CARE BE CHANGED BECAUSE
OF MY DECISION TO BO A DONOR?
NO. The quality of medical and nursing care will not change, regardless of your decision. All patients will continue to receive the excellent care they deserve, since organ/tissue donation is only effective in the event of death.
HOW DO ORGAN/TISSUE RECOVERY PROGRAMS LEARN OF POTENTIAL DONORS?
When hospital personnel have identified a potential donor, they use a 24-hour number (800) 525-3456 to contact Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. A procurement transplant coordinator then assists the referring hospital and the donor family with the medical, legal, and ethical aspects of donation.
HOW ARE THE PATIENTS NEEDING ORGANS IDENTIFIED TO THE RECOVERY TEAM?
All 50 states have patients needing organ transplants listed on a national computer system, through the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS provides 24-hour access to this list of patients awaiting lifesaving transplants to certified organ procurement organizations.
CAN ORGANS/TISSUES BE TRANSPLANTED BETWEEN SEXES AND RACES?
Yes. The determining factor in identifying a possible organ recipient are the matching of antigens, blood type, and body size between the donor and the recipient. There is no matching required for tissue transplants.
HOW LONG MUST A PATIENT WAIT FOR A TRANSPLANT?
The time a patient spends on the waiting list for an organ can vary from a few days to several years. The length of their wait is affected by several factors, such as the urgency of their medical condition and the availability of donated organs. Tissue banks have a very limited supply of donated skin, bone, heart valves, saphenous veins, tendons and corneas. All patients awaiting an organ or tissue transplant depend upon the generosity of donors and their families to give the “gift of life.”
WHEN MUST THE ORGANS/TISSUES BE REMOVED?
Donated organs will be removed as soon as possible after the determination of brain death. Donated tissue must be removed within 24 hours of death.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ORGANS ARE REMOVED?
Physicians with the transplant team will come to the hospital, where utmost care and respect will be shown in the recovery of life-saving organs. Once recovered, organs are cooled and preserved, and taken to the hospital where the transplant will take place All organs are recovered by physicians in a sterile operating room, just as with any surgery.
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF TIME SPAN BETWEEN PROCUREMENT AND TRANSPLANTATION?
The approximate time for the following organs/tissue to be transplanted once recovered is:
Kidney (72 hours) Skin (2 years)
Liver (24 hours Heart Valves (10 years)
Heart (4 hours) Bone (5 years)
Lung (4 hours) Corneas (7 days)
Heart-Lung (4 hours)
Pancreas (24 hours)
WILL THE BODY TRY TO REJECT THE NEW ORGAN?
Yes. The recipient’s body will identify the transplanted organ as a foreign object and will attempt to destroy it. Anti-rejection medication is required to control this reaction.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ORGAN IS REJECTED?
Specialized medications are administered to correct the rejection. If the rejection cannot be corrected, lifesaving measures must be taken. Attempts will be made to locate another organ for re-transplantation. Due to the shortage of donated organs, some recipients die before another organ becomes available.
WILL THE IDENTITY OF THE RECIPIENTS BE REVEALED TO THE DONOR FAMILY?
The identity of both the donor and the recipient is kept confidential. KODA will provide the donor’s family with basic information about the recipient’s age, sex, profession and general location. If the recipient and donor family express the desire to correspond, KODA will facilitate the process.
WILL ORGAN/TISSUE DONATION INTERFERE WITH FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS OR CHANGE THE APPEARANCE OF THE DONOR’S BODY?
Physicians and KODA staff members show the utmost degree of dignity and respect for your loved one in the recovery of organs, eyes and tissue. The recovery of life-saving and life-enhancing organs and tissues does not ordinarily interfere with customary funeral arrangements. An open viewing funeral is possible in most cases
WILL MY FAMILY BE CHARGED FOR THE DONATION?
NO. All costs related to the donation within the KODA service area will be paid by KODA. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in all states pay the costs associated with donation.
CAN I SELL MY ORGANS?
NO. Federal law prohibits the selling of organs or tissues. All anatomical donations are in fact an extraordinary gift…the gift of life!
Many of our Educational efforts will be to encourage members of the general public to register on the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry at www.donatelifeky.org