Learning About Organ Donation

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How can you become an organ donor?

A living donor and kidney transplant

You may be thinking about donating an organ to a family member or friend. Or you may want to donate an organ to help someone in need. Donating an organ while you're alive is called a "living donation."

Many people who are ill need an organ transplant to live. But there are a lot more organs needed than are available. One problem is that a donated organ has to match with the body of the person who gets the organ. Blood tests can show how good the match will be. No two bodies are exactly the same. But the better the match, the better the transplant will work.

Make sure to think about how donating an organ may affect your emotions. If you're thinking about being an organ donor, you will be asked if you understand how it may affect you and your family. You will also be asked if you understand how it may affect your health and if you feel at all pressured to donate an organ.

For many people, making a living organ donation can be rewarding. After a successful transplant, most donors feel a special sense of well-being because they may have helped save a life.

If you're interested in donating organs or tissues, or if you want to learn more, contact the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Call 1-888-894-6361. Or go online at www.unos.org.

What organs can you donate?

Living donors can donate:

  • A kidney.
  • A part of the liver.
  • Bone marrow.
  • Stem cells.

Can anyone donate an organ?

  • You don't have to be in perfect health to donate an organ, as long as the organ you donate is healthy.
  • People of any age can sign up to be organ donors. In many states there's no minimum age. An adult might have to sign for someone under age 18.
  • To be a living donor, you must be:
    • In good general health.
    • Free from diseases that can damage the organs. These include diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and cancer.
  • If you are or may someday become pregnant, talk with your doctor. Donating an organ could affect your future pregnancies.
  • All major religions allow organ donation. Talk to your spiritual adviser if you have questions about your religion's views on this.

Who can you donate to?

  • You can donate to someone you know. This can include a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a person who you know needs an organ.
  • Or you can donate to someone in need by donating to the national waiting list.

What else do you need to think about?

  • Living organ donation can be risky for both the donor and the person who gets the organ. Risks can include pain, infection, pneumonia, bleeding, and even death. After the surgery, you may face changes in your body from having one of your organs removed.
  • Living organ donation can be costly. The cost of removing and transporting the organ is paid by the organ procurement organization.But also think of your costs in terms of lost wages, child care, and possible medical problems in the future. Your own insurance premiums may rise after the surgery. And later you might have problems getting or keeping health, life, or disability insurance. Check with your insurance provider to learn more about how your donation may affect your coverage.