Frequently Asked Questions
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Yes! In the US there are nearly 100,000 individuals waiting for transplants in the United States today and many thousands more in need of tissue and cornea transplants. Due to the shortage of donated organs and tissues not everyone receives the transplant they need.
Age limitations may apply with some specific organs and tissues, but in general, anyone who wishes to donate should sign a donor card and have a family discussion. Donor suitability is determined at the time of death.
The most important step in becoming a donor is to discuss your wishes with your immediate family members. They will be asked at the time of your death to give permission for your donation. After discussing your wishes with your family, fill out a donor card (click here to request a donor card), and enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry.
According to law, all hospitals in the US are required to notify their designated organ procurement organization of all deaths and imminent deaths. Unyts has a communication center that operates 24 hours a day to handle referrals from Western New York hospitals.
The quality of medical and nursing care will not change, regardless of your decision to be a donor. Doctors, nurses and other personnel who treat patients at the time of death are in no way involved with transplant programs or possible recipients. Donation is considered only after every effort has been made to save the patient's life.
Brain death occurs in patients who have suffered a traumatic injury to the brain. 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 an established medical and legal diagnosis of death. A physician can confirm brain death beyond a doubt, using a strict neurological examination. Click here for more information about brain death and cardiac death.
Donation doesn't usually disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket. On rare occasions, there may be some swelling or discoloration at the recovery site. The funeral director can usually minimize this during preparation so that it is not noticeable during viewing. Most donations are performed in operating room conditions (cornea donations may be performed at bedside), and the body is treated with the same care as a surgery patient. After donation surgery, the body is carefully reconstructed to normal appearance and donation coordinators -- the professionals who handle arrangements for the donation -- provide funeral directors with detailed information so the body can be prepared for burial. There are no obvious stitches and donation won't usually interfere with funeral plans including open casket services.
In general, organ and tissue donation must take place within 12 to 24 hours after a declaration of death. Most donations are completed sooner. Immediately after the donation surgery, the body is released to the funeral service. The donation may add a few hours to the process but should not delay funeral plans.
Most major religions support donation as an act of human kindness in keeping with religious teachings. People are often unaware of the attitudes of their faith toward donation; they may be mislead by old superstitions or misreadings of religious texts. Click here for a detailed list of religious views on donation. You may also wish to discuss any questions about donation with a clergy member or spiritual advisor.
All 50 states have patients needing an organ transplant listed on a national computer system. This national network provides 24 hour access to the list of patients awaiting lifesaving transplants.
The time a patient spends on the waiting list for an organ transplant 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, 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.
Yes. The determining factors in identifying a possible recipient are the matching of blood type and body size between the donor and the recipient. There is no matching required for tissue transplants.
No. Donation is a gift; it costs the donor family nothing. All the costs associated with the recovery of donated organs and tissues are charged to the donor program, then passed on to the transplant center which bills the recipient and his or her insurer. These costs account for only about 12% of the transplant recipient's total bill. Most of the expense is generated by the transplant procedures: hospital costs, surgeons' and doctors' fees, medication and aftercare. The donor's family is responsible for the costs of medical treatment prior to death and for funeral expenses, just as they would be if there were no donation.
A number of in-depth studies of families who have donated organs and tissues clearly show that donation can provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation. Even families that decide not to donate report they appreciated the opportunity to choose. Studies also indicate that families may experience anger and frustration if they are not given information about donation. Donation tends to give families a sense that something positive has resulted from an otherwise tragic loss -- especially when the donor is young and death is unexpected. Donation will not lessen a family‚s grief, but it can be a tangible tribute to the individual they have lost.
No. It is a federal crime, under the National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507) to sell organs. The punishment for violating the law is a fine up to $50,000 and/or a maximum of five years imprisonment. Publicity about people raising money for transplants can create the false impression that they are trying to buy organs. In fact, these are usually uninsured patients and their families who are seeking funds to meet the financial requirements of the transplant program.
No. Factors such as race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ. The organ allocation and distribution system is based on many factors including blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and other medical criteria. There is no way to buy a place on the waiting list.
Yes. The recipient's body will identify the transplanted organ as a foreign object and will attempt to destroy it. Medication is required to control this reaction.
Occasionally a donor family will correspond directly with or even meet an individual transplanted with their loved one's organ or tissue, but only after both parties have expressed written intention to do so. Typically the identity of the donor and the recipients are kept confidential. UNYTS provides the donor's family with basic information about the recipients such as age, sex, profession and general location. The donor families and transplant recipients may correspond anonymously through the procurement organization and transplant center.
A physician performs a series of tests to determine whether or not brain death has occurred. Death is indicated if the patient: - cannot breath without assistance - has no pupil response to light - has no response to pain.
The heart has its own pacemaker, independent of the brain. With oxygen, the heart will continue to beat.
Once the patient is brain dead, he or she is dead because the brain will not recover. Respiratory support equipment only keeps the heart beating, supplying the vital organs with oxygen.
The failure of many organs begins soon after brain death.
No, the person is dead and no longer feels pain.
The recorded time of death is when the patient is declared dead, not when the heart actually stops beating. There are no clinically documented cases where a patient was declared brain dead and later restored to a normal life. Federal regulations mandate that all families of brain dead patients be offered the option of organ and tissue donation.
Cardiac death means the patient is without oxygen. His or her heart has stopped beating. Tissue and eye donation are options after cardiac death has occurred. Some of these tissues include bone, heart valves, veins, skin and soft connective tissues, such as tendons.
In some instances, a person may donate organs after cardiac death has occurred. For non-heartbeating organ donation to occur the following circumstances must exist: * A patient has suffered devastating and unrecoverable brain damage resulting in ventilator dependency; * The family has decided to withdraw mechanical ventilation; * Death from cardiac and respiratory arrest will occur within one hour following withdrawal of mechanical support. * In this situation, organ recovery would occur only after support is withdrawn and after cardiac death is pronounced.