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Organ and bone marrow donation

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Give the gift of life

Organ and bone marrow transplants save lives, thanks to the generosity of patients' family, friends, and anonymous donors.

At Kaiser Permanente, over 650 members are waiting for a liver, heart, lung, or pancreas transplant and over 3,200 members are waiting for a kidney transplant. Another 450 members a year get life-saving bone marrow transplants and 200 of these transplants are made possible through a donor. 

Get the facts about organ donation, then decide if you can help a family member, a friend, a coworker, or someone in your community.

Understanding donation

Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or part of an organ so that it can be transplanted into another person.

Due to a shortage of donors in the United States, 120,000 people a year wait on transplant lists, and 18 people on these lists die each day.

For some transplants, such as bone marrow, liver, and kidney, the donor may be alive, but for others, such as heart, lung, intestine, and pancreas transplants, the donor must be dead.

There is a careful process for matching an organ or marrow donor with someone who needs a transplant. Not everyone who registers as an organ or marrow donor will be asked to donate, and if you're asked to be a living donor for someone, you will have a medical exam to make sure you're healthy enough.

Facts about donation

There are a lot of myths about organ donation. Some people believe that they can't become a donor, while others are concerned about their own health. Learn the facts:

  • Anyone can register to be a donor, regardless of age, race, or medical history. For example, it's especially helpful for bone marrow or stem cell donors to be between 18 and 44.
  • Your health is the top priority. If you become sick or injured, the number one priority is to save your life and cure the illness. Organ, eye, and other kinds of tissue donation can only be considered after you have died.
  • Most religions support organ donation. Donation is considered an act of love and charity.
  • Donors' bodies are treated with care, dignity, and respect. It's possible to have an open casket funeral if you're an organ donor.
  • Being a donor doesn't cost you or your family anything.

Becoming a donor

Only you can know if becoming a donor is right for you. Whether or not you decide to become a donor, it's important to tell your family what you prefer in case they're asked about your wishes.

If you'd like to become a donor, follow these important steps:

1. Sign up to be on the donor registry through the DMV website in your state. 
2. Include your wishes to become a donor in your will and advance directive.

Reviewed by Ruth Brentari, October 2013

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