Ten Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Organ Donation

In an effort to demystify the organ and tissue donation process and encourage more Americans to become donors, the National Kidney Foundation provides answers to ten of the most often asked questions about organ and tissue donation.

  1. Are organ and tissue transplants experimental?
    Medication and medical advances have resulted in transplant surgeries today that are very successful, in fact as high as 95 percent. The transplantation of vital organs has become routine surgical operation and is no longer experimental.
  2. How are organs and tissues for transplantation obtained?
    Many organ and tissues are donated by individuals at the time of their death. Others are donated by living donors.
  3. How are organs from deceased donors distributed?
    Generally, donated organs are matched with individuals on an organ waiting list. Matching is based on a variety of factors including blood and tissue types, medical need, length of time on the waiting list and weight of donor and recipient.
  4. Who can become an organ or tissue donor?
    People of all different ages are able to donate. It is essential that anyone who wants to be a donor expresses this wish to others in the family. For more information about becoming an organ and tissue donor, click here.
  5. Do I have to register as an organ and tissue donor with any hospital or national registry?
    There are different ways to identify yourself as an organ donor.

    For deceased donation: if an online registry is available in your state, you can sign up for that. (You can also designate your wishes on your driver's license or sign a donor card, but the online registry is the best method to use). It is extremely important to discuss your decision with your loved ones, because they will be asked to sign a consent form at the time of the donation.

    For living donation: you need to work with the recipient's hospital to be tested as a donor. If you are considering donation to anyone who needs it, and don't have a recipient in mind, you need to work with a hospital in your area. For more information, click here.
  6. What if organ and tissue donation is against my religion?
    Religious leaders of most denominations throughout the world favor organ and tissue donation and consider it the greatest humanitarian act. If you are concerned, check with your religious leader.
  7. Will being a declared organ donor (to donate after my death) affect the care I receive in a hospital?
    Organ and tissue donation is not even considered until all possible efforts to save a person's life have been exhausted.
  8. Which organs and tissues can be donated after death?
    Kidneys, lungs, corneas, livers, pancreases, heart valves, bones, tendons, skin and bone marrow can all be transplanted. If desired, a donor can specify on a donor card which organs and tissues are to be donated.
  9. Do I have to pay to be an organ and tissue donor after death?
    Donors and their families do not pay for any expenses associated with organ and tissue donation.
  10. Does organ and tissue donation after death cause any disfigurement to the donor?
    Organ removal is a sterile surgical procedure wherein the body remains totally intact. Open casket funerals are still possible if so desired.

For more information about organ and tissue donation, visit the A to Z Guide and the National Kidney Foundation's webpages on Organ Donation and Transplantation.