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Kidney Disease (Nephrology)

Organ Donation

kidney donor programCurrently, more than 90,000 men, women and children are awaiting life-saving transplants.  However, only 28,000 transplants were performed last year, which means that more than 60,000 people are still on the waiting list.  And each day 18 people die waiting. Please help by making the decision today to become an organ and tissue donor.

Make today the day you:

  • Sign up on your state's donor registry: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania
  • Say yes to donation on your drivers license or express your wishes on your healthcare proxy
  • Discuss your decision with your family.  They may be asked to give consent.

Understanding Organ and Tissue Donation
Many people are nervous about donating organs because they do not have the facts.  Below is a list of the most common questions and their answers.  For more information, go to Donate Life.

Who can become a donor?
All individuals can indicate their intent to donate (persons under 18 years of age must have parent's or guardian's consent). Medical suitability for donation is determined at the time of death.

Are there age limits for donors?
There are no age limitations on who can donate. Newborns as well as senior citizens have been organ donors. Persons younger than 18 years of age must have a parent's or guardian's consent.

How do I express my wishes to become an organ and tissue donor?

  • Sign up on your state's donor registry
  • Indicate your intent to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver's license or healthcare proxy
  • Discuss your decision with family members and loved ones

If I sign a donor card or indicate my donation preferences on my driver's license, will my wishes be carried out?
Even if you sign a donor card it is essential that your family know your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur.

What can be donated?

  • Organs: heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines
  • Tissue: eyes, cornea, skin, bone, heart valves, cardiovascular and connective tissues
  • Bone marrow

If I sign a donor card, will it affect the quality of medical care I receive at the hospital?
No! Every effort is made to save your life before donation is considered.

Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket funeral?
Donation does not disfigure the body and does not interfere with having a funeral, including open casket services.

Why should minorities be particularly concerned about organ donation?
The need for transplants is unusually high among some ethnic minorities. Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver that can lead to organ failure are found more frequently in ethnic minority populations than in the general population. For example, Native Americans are four times more likely than Whites to suffer from diabetes. African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are three times more likely than Whites to suffer from kidney disease. Many African Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to kidney failure. Some of these diseases are best treated through transplantation; others can only be treated through transplantation.

  • The rate of organ donation in minority communities does not keep pace with the number needing transplants. Although minorities donate in proportion to their share of the population, their need for transplants is much greater. African Americans, for example, are about 13 percent of the population, about 12 percent of donors, and about 35 percent of the kidney waiting list.
  • Matching donor organs to potential recipients requires genetic similarity. Generally, people are genetically more similar to people of their own ethnicity or race than to people of other races. Therefore, matches are more likely and timelier, when donors and potential recipients are members of the same ethnic background.
  • Minority patients may have to wait longer for matched kidneys and therefore may be sicker at the time of transplant or die waiting. With more donated organs from minorities, finding a match will be quicker and the waiting time will be reduced.

Are there any costs to my family for donation?
The donor's family does NOT pay for the cost of the organ donation. All costs related to donation of organs and tissues are paid by the recipient, usually through insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

How are organs distributed?
Patients are matched to organs based on a number of factors including blood and tissue typing, medical urgency, time on the waiting list, and geographical location.

If I have a previous medical condition, can I still donate?
Regardless of any pre-existing medical circumstances or conditions, determination of suitability to donate organs or tissue may be based on a combination of factors that take into account the donor's general health and the urgency of need of the recipient. This determination is usually done by the medical staff that recovers the organs or by the transplant team that reviews all of the data about the organ(s) or tissue that have been recovered from the donor. We recommend that all individuals consider themselves potential organ and tissue donors, indicate their intent to donate by signing a donor card, and discuss their decision with family members. Transplant professionals will evaluate potential donors and determine suitability for donation of particular organs or tissue when the time for donation arises.