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Below are most frequently asked questions about organ, eye and tissue donation with answers to help you make a decision based on the facts.
More about Donor Alliance and donating
Donor Alliance is a federally-designated, non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) and an accredited tissue bank serving Colorado and most of Wyoming. As a recognized leader in facilitating the donation and recovery of organs and tissue, our mission is to save and heal lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. To achieve this mission, Donor Alliance maintains partnerships with more than 100 hospitals in the region. Our organization also walks alongside the family during the organ recovery process to ensure their loved one’s gifts are safely received at transplant centers in a timely manner. Donor Alliance is a unique OPO as we also manage the donor registries in the region, Donate Life Colorado and Donate Life Wyoming. Through Donate Life, Donor Alliance inspires people to register as an organ and tissue donor through community partnerships, public outreach and education campaigns throughout the region.
The process of recovering organs and tissue from a deceased person for transplantation to save and heal lives. . One person can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save and heal up to 75 lives through tissue donation. Each year, the lives of approximately 500,000 people in the United States are saved and healed through organ and tissue donation.
Heart, kidneys, liver, lung, pancreas and small intestine are the organs which can be transplanted; bone, corneas, heart valves, veins, skin, tendons and ligaments are among the tissues.
Saying Yes to organ, eye and tissue donation saves lives. Every year, organ, eye and tissue transplants provide hope to tens of thousands of people suffering from disease, injury, trauma or blindness. In Colorado and Wyoming, around 1,500 people are on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. More than 100,000 are waiting nationwide. Thousands more patients could benefit from lifesaving and healing eye and tissue donations. Transplants offer patients a new chance at healthy and productive lives, returning them to their families, friends and communities. There continues to be a great need for more people to sign up to give the gift of life. Residents can sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors by saying Yes when they obtain or renew a driver license or state ID, or anytime at www.DonateLifeColorado.org or www.DonateLifeWyoming.org.
What does joining the Donor Registry mean?
Another one of the frequently asked questions is what does it mean to join the Donor Registry. Every individual has the right to decide to sign up to donate their organs and tissues at the time of their death. On October 15, 2001, recovery agencies in Colorado began enforcing a law enacted by the Colorado State Legislature in 1998.
In Wyoming recovery agencies began enforcing a law enacted by the Wyoming State Legislature in April 2003 on July 1, 2003. These law established a centralized, confidential online registry for every Coloradan and Wyoming resident that have made the decision to be organ and tissue donors.
Your decision to donate takes priority over your family’s preferences. Please tell your loved ones today about your decision to save lives.
- Being on the Donate Life Colorado or Wyoming Organ and Tissue Donor Registry means that you have elected to have all of your organs and tissues made available for transplant and/or research at the time of your death. It is good to communicate your decision to be a donor with your family.
- If you are an eligible donor, your family will be informed of your decision at the time of your death and asked to provide information about your medical and behavioral history.
- If you wish to only donate certain organs and/or tissue, you may list restrictions when filling out the online registry form on this site [in the 'any additional comments' section; please no commentary]. Single restrictions are recorded in the donor registry.
- The registry will only accommodate restrictions or exclusions related to individual organs or tissues that can be removed for purposes of transplantation, medical education or research. Organs are distributed according to national guidelines and regulations set up by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Tissue donation and transplantation is overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The Donate Life Colorado and Wyoming Organ and Tissue Donor Registries ensure that your decision about donation will be known and acted upon.
- Personal information in the registry is only accessible to designated medical professionals.
- The information on the registry cannot be shared with or sold to companies and government agencies.
Yes. To remove yourself from the registry, you can either fill out the online form located on the registry web sites, or send in your request to be removed in writing to the Colorado or Wyoming Donor Registry at 200 Spruce Street, Suite 200, Denver, CO 80230. Please be sure to include including your full name, date of birth, mailing address, driver’s license number, email address and signature. Once your decision is received, you will receive a confirmation message via email OR postal mail. Even though you have been removed from the registry, at your time of death your family will still be contacted by a coordinator and asked if they would like to make the decision to donate on your behalf, so please be sure and express your wishes to loved ones.
We hear this question from our list of frequently asked questions out in our communities. No. Medical care is not affected in any way by your status as a registered donor. Every attempt is made to save your life. In fact, patients must receive the most aggressive lifesaving care in order to be potential organ donors. If a patient’s heart stops during lifesaving efforts, organs cannot be transplanted. Organ and tissue donation is only considered after a physician has pronounced a person dead and family has been consulted.
You are never too old or unhealthy to register to be a donor. This is a great question from our list frequently asked questions! Organs and tissues are generally not considered for donation if the person has died from cancer or an infectious disease; however, certain cancer patients can donate corneas. In the event you are in a position to be a donor, medical specialists will evaluate your medical history to determine your suitability to donate. Organs and tissue are tested for infectious diseases, including hepatitis, AIDS and other viral infections before they are transplanted.
No, there are a few organs that can be transplanted from a living person to another person. Living people can donate a kidney or part of the liver or lung; although, Donor Alliance only recovers organs from deceased donors.
Simply register your decision on your state’s donor registry (for Colorado residents, visit www.DonateLifeColorado.org, and for Wyoming residents, visit www.DonateLifeWyoming.org), indicate your desire to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver's license or other legal document, and most importantly, discuss the decision with your family so they know to honor your wish to give the gift of life after your death.
Yes. Individuals can continue to register to be organ and tissue donors at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when acquiring or renewing a driver’s license or state identification card. This information from the DMV is downloaded into the registry every 24 hours. So, if you make your designation at the DMV you have been added to the registry. By signing up with the registry, your desire to donate is stored in a secure, confidential database. Should your death result in the opportunity for you to be a donor, an official record of your donor designation will be readily available and your wishes to donate will be respected.
A great one from our frequently asked questions! You should register. Due to the rapid and emotional nature of events surrounding sudden death, families often do not have time to check legal documents prior to being approached about donation. Without enrolling on the registry, your decision may not be expressed; however, since the registry is viewed in all potential donation cases prior to approaching the family, we are able to share proof of registration with family members at the time donation is discussed, and your wishes will be honored.
The Colorado and Wyoming Registries allow people who are at least 18 years of age to register their authorization to donate specific or all organs and tissues upon their death. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 can join the registry; however, until the designated donor is 18 years old, their parents (or legal guardians) will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time.
Due to federal privacy laws prohibiting the collection of personal information for individuals under age 13, the registry is unable to accept registrations for children 12 and under. Until registrants and non-registrants alike are 18 years old, their parents (or legal guardians) will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time.
Registering as an organ and tissue donor does not grant permission for your whole body to be donated to a medical school or other whole body donation program. If whole body donation is to occur and the decedent is on the registry, the decedent will be first a tissue and then research donor. Families often choose whole body donation or research as options to help afford funeral services, as cremation and return of the ashes is free.
It's easy to answer this one from our frequently asked questions. Yes, you may opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissue or donating for medical research while registering online at www.DonateLifeColorado.org or www.DonateLifeWyoming.org. Simply state your wishes under the “Any Additional Comments” section located at the end of the online registration form. In addition, you can specify that your donated tissue must be used for life-saving or reconstructive purposes only; distributed only to non-profit organizations; or distributed only in the United States.
Federal law does not allow you to restrict your donation to or from specific classes of individuals. However, Colorado has never recovered organs or tissues from prisoners who have been put to death. For donation purposes, persons must have been out of incarceration for five or more years to be eligible to be organ and tissue donors, and are considered “high risk” donors.
“Directed donation” of an organ to a specific individual is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation (organs may not be directed to a specified group of individuals). Directed donation is best supported by an advance directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.
All of the states in the continental U.S. honor individual state registries; however, there is no national registry. All matters concerning organ and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each state’s respective laws. Additionally, organs may not be allocated to the registration state. For information on how to become a donor in other states, go to donatelife.net and click on the state in question. Great question from our list of frequently asked questions!
Typically, after brain death has been declared and consent gained, a patient remains on ventilated support for a short period of time, due to the fact that the patient is considered clinically deceased, and the process of donation can begin. Brain death is different than a coma. When a patient is in a coma, there is still blood flow allowing the brain to function. When a patient is brain dead, all function to the brain has permanently ceased. The longer a patient is on life support after brain death, the more unstable most organs, such as the heart and lungs, become.
The body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and the donor's appearance following donation still allows for an open-casket funeral. Once the organ and/or tissue recovery process is completed, the body is released to the donor’s family. The entire donation process is usually completed within 24 to 36 hours, and the family may then proceed with funeral arrangements.
Many people wonder about this one from our list of frequently asked questions. No. There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ and tissue donation. Donor Alliance, a non-profit organization, assumes all costs associated with recovering and processing organs and tissues for transplant once death has been declared and authorization is confirmed through the donor registry, or from the family in lieu of registration; these costs are never passed on to the donor family. Our business model, culture and values are all built on respecting and appreciating the gift of donation. We find this is a comfort to both donor families and recipients. Eventually, these costs are reimbursed by transplant centers, once a transplant is completed, and the center, in turn, will bill private and public insurance plans. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs or tissue in attempt to save the donor’s life and funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the donor’s family.
The process of joining the UNOS National Organ Transplant Waiting List begins with your physician referring you to a transplant center for evaluation. A committee of doctors, transplant surgeons, and other hospital staff makes the decision as to whether a patient is a suitable candidate, and whether or not to be placed on the waiting list for an organ transplant. This decision is based on the status of the patient’s health, his or her medical and social history, and the expectation of their stability after the transplant takes place
Each person’s immune system reacts differently to transplanted organs, so there is no set formula to determine whether or not an organ will be rejected. However, new medications are continually being developed to reduce the risk of transplant rejection in patients. With these new medications, rejection rates are as low as 10-15 % of patients and one-year transplanted organ survival has improved to 95%. These days, rejection of tissue is uncommon.
Soon after donation occurs, a donor family will be notified with general information about the recipient(s), including age, gender, occupation and state of residence. The identities of all parties remain confidential through this communication process. Correspondence between donor families and recipients is facilitated by Donor Alliance and transplant centers in a way that ensures donor and recipient confidentiality. If correspondence continues over time, it may be possible for donor families and recipients to communicate directly.
If both parties agree, people can meet each other in person, while others may be more comfortable communicating without direct contact. It is also possible that either party may decline to correspond or meet for various reasons.
As a state-authorized public service, Donor Alliance adheres to the most up-to-date guidelines to keep all personal information confidential. It is absolutely vital that the organization identifies individual registrants with 100% certainty if they should ever be in a position to be an actual organ or tissue donor. We would never want to confuse a patient who is not registered with someone who is. We assure you that every precaution is in place to protect the information from identity thieves. Of the 40+ state donor registries now in operation, there are no reported problems with unauthorized access to personal information.
Living donation is another incredible way you can help save the life of someone waiting for an organ transplant and is one of our most frequently asked questions. Through living donation, a living person can donate a kidney or part of the liver, lung, intestine or pancreas to another person in need of a transplant.
There are many factors to look at when considering living donation. Things such as blood type and overall health are factors when considering becoming a living donor. Each potential living donor must go through a full medical evaluation that includes lab tests, a physical examination, and a psycho-social examination. The decision about whether to accept the living donor is then made by the health care team at the transplant center.r noreferrer">www.uch.edu/transplant