Organ Donation

Question: How do I become an organ donor?

The best way to become a donor is to register as a donor on your driver’s license or online on the National Donate Life Registry. By registering, you ensure that your decision to donate can be honored in a timely manner when you die. To learn more about the registering as a donor visit our Donor Registry information page.

Question: How serious is the organ shortage?

There are currently more than 120,000 men, women and children in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant. More than 5,000 of these individuals live in the New England region. Every 12 minutes another name is added to the national waiting list and an average of 22 people die each day waiting for their transplant.

Question: What organs can be donated?

The miracle of donation and transplantation allows the donation of organs such as heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and intestines. Newer procedures called Vascular Composite Allografts (VCAs) have also made possible the transplantation of all or parts of a face, as well as extremities like hands and arms. Note that registering as a donor online or on your driver’s license is not consent for VCA donation. VCA donation will require consent of your next-of-kin.

Question: What are the criteria for becoming an organ donor?

Recovery of donated organs only occurs after death. Age and health considerations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death and there are few absolute health exclusions to donation. Everyone interested in being a donor should consider themselves as good candidates for donation confident in the knowledge that medical professionals will make a final determination at the appropriate time.

Question: Will there be a cost to my family if I donate?

There is no cost to the family of donors for organ and tissue donation. All expenses related to the donation are paid for by New England Donor Services.

Question: Does a patient who is rich or influential receive special consideration in organ distribution?

Although celebrities get most of the media attention, the fact is that tens of thousands of other patients have received donated organs as well. Donor organs are matched to recipients based on blood and tissue type, geographic location and medical urgency. Organ allocation is blind to wealth or social status. Further, factors such as race, gender, age or celebrity status are not considered when determining who receives an organ.

Question: Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?

Most religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation as one of the highest forms of giving and caring to others.

Question: If I’m registered to donate and I am admitted to a hospital, will doctors allow me to die so my organs can be recovered?

No. The first responsibility of medical professionals is always to save lives and every effort will be made to save your life before donation is considered. Donation is only pursued as an option after all life-saving measures have failed and death has been declared.

Question: What are the steps involved in organ donation?

Federal regulations require area hospitals to notify New England Donor Services of each death or impending death of every patient so that donor registrations can be honored or so that families can have the option to choose donation. New England Donor Services staff, through its affiliated Life Choice Donor Services OPO or New England Organ Bank OPO, makes an initial determination about any possible medical disqualifications for donation, and if there are none immediately apparent, a trained donation professional from NEDS travels to the hospital to further evaluate the patient. If the potential organ donor is already registered, the next of kin will be notified of that fact and information about the process will be provided. In the absence of donor registration, the next-of-kin will be offered the opportunity to make the donation decision.
A national computerized waiting list is used to match donated organs with the most appropriate recipients. NEDS staff will arrange for the surgical recovery of the organs and transportation. NEDS will also stay with the donor’s family and provide support as long as the family wishes. After the donation takes place, the funeral director of the family’s choice is notified and funeral arrangements are made by the next of kin in the same way as if the deceased had not been a donor.

Question: How are organs allocated to patients waiting for organ transplants?

Patients waiting for an organ transplant are registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). New England Donor Services works uses the UNOS system to allocate organs in a fair process based upon medical urgency, genetic matching and time waiting.

Question: Who pays for transplant surgery?

Most transplants are paid for by private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid programs. Patients can get detailed information from their physicians or health insurers.