Frequently Asked Questions About Donation

Introduction | FAQ's | Myths & Misconceptions | Registry Information | FAQ's About Registry Security

Select a FAQ section:

Who is eligible
How to become a donor

Healthcare Information

Donation Process

Family Issues

 

Who is eligible...

Who can be a donor?
Can a person be too old or sick to donate?
Can I be a donor without being in the registry?
Why is joining the Registry important?

Who can be a donor?
Answer: Anyone can choose to be a donor. Medical state at the time of death will settle what organs and tissues can be given, not age or illness. Medical staff assesses the chance for donation on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Can a person be too old or sick to donate?
Answer: NO. People of all ages may be an organ and tissue donor.


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Can be donor without being in the Registry?
Answer: Yes. Signing up in the Registry is not a requirement to donate. If you want to be a donor and not join the Registry, share your choice. Tell your family about your choice. Telling your family and joining the Registry is still one of the best options.

Why is joining the Registry important?
Answer: The Registry holds your record to be a donor that is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Due to the fast and emotional nature of events at the time of death, families do not always have time to check legal papers. The Registry helps to honor your choice at death. It can also help ease your family's level of stress and worry at the time of your death when they know your choice.


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How to become a donor...

How can I become an organ, eye and tissue donor?
How do I make my decision known?
Can I be a donor without being in the Registry?
What if I’m not a Missouri resident?

How can I become an organ, eye and tissue donor?
Answer: Consider yourself a potential organ and tissue donor. Your medical condition and circumstances of your death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated. Once you make the decision to be a donor, record your decision. There are several ways you can document your decision to give an anatomical gift: How do I make my decision known?
Answer: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

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Can I be a donor without being in the Registry?
Answer: Yes. Enrollment in the Registry is not an absolute requirement for donation. If you decide to be a donor, but prefer not to join the Registry, it is important to tell your family about your decision. However, telling your family about your decision and joining the Registry is still the best action to take.

What if I’m not a Missouri resident?
Answer: If you reside or travel to Missouri, you are encouraged to sign up in Missouri’s registry in addition to your home state registry. For information on how to enroll in your state, visit Donate Life. Just click on the drop down menu to choose your state and you will automatically be directed to a site that contains information on how to enroll.


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Healthcare Information...

Will my decision to donate affect the quality of my medical care?
What is an advance directive for health care choices?
Do I have to have an advance directive for health care choices to be a donor?
I have an advance directive that includes organ donation. Do I need to register in Missouri's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry?
I have a person serving as my health care proxy with a signed power of attorney. Can this person approve donation for me?
If I am a registered donor and I also have an Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order, how will emergency medical staff handle the situation?
What is brain death?
What is cardiac death?
What are tissue transplants?
What is the cornea?
What is corneal blindness?
What is corneal transplant?
When are organs recovered?
What is a living related kidney donor?
What is a living unrelated kidney donor?
What is an altruistic kidney donor?
Does a chronic health problem keep me from being a donor?
What medical conditions prohibit donation?

Will my decision to donate affect the quality of my medical care?
Answer: No. Organ, eye and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death legally declared. The doctors working to save your life are entirely separate from the medical team involved in recovering organs and tissues after death.

What is an advance directive for health care choices?
Answer: An advance health care directive is a legal document that outlines your decisions concerning medical care at or near the time of your death. An advance health care directive can also be legal authority to grant consent for donation, provided you have outlined your decision to donate. Typically, an advance health care directive prohibits the use of intensive care interventions. However, if you plan to be a vital organ and tissue donor, the document must specify that intensive care interventions are only authorized for the purpose of organ and tissue donation.


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Do I have to have an advance directive for health care choices to be a donor?
Answer: No. An advance health care directive, for the purpose of donation, is not required to be a donor. See How can I become an organ, eye and tissue donor.

I have an advance directive that includes organ donation. Do I need to register in Missouri's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry?
Answer: While it is not vital, it is suggested. The registry is viewed in all likely donation cases. Due to the fast and emotional nature of events at time of death, families do not always have time to check legal papers. By being in the registry, recovery staff is able to share proof that you want to be a donor with family members.


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I have a person serving as my health care proxy with a signed power of attorney. Can this person approve donation for me?
Answer: Yes. But, if you sign up in Missouri's Registry, your record is first-person consent, and it will be shared with your proxy. It is best to talk about all end-of-life choices with your proxy. If you are not in the registry, the holder of your health care power of attorney may make donation decisions on your behalf.

If I am a registered donor and I also have an Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order, how will emergency medical staff handle the situation?
Answer: Emergency medical staff will honor the Out-of-Hospital DNR Order if on hand or found. You will need to choose what is the most vital to you. If both are important, know that the Out-of-Hospital DNR will be honored. You can still be a tissue donor. Family can plan tissue donation with the coroner's office or funeral home. So tell your family what you want so they can handle the state of affairs.


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What is brain death?
Answer: Brain death results from a severe permanent injury to the brain. Like an injury from a gunshot wound to the head or a car crash. The brain no longer works and a person cannot breathe or sustain their life. But, vital body functions may thrive in an intensive care unit for a short period of time. The person is kept on a breathing machine to keep the oxygen and blood moving to the vital organs. The person is moved to surgery to recover the organs. People who experience brain death can also donate tissue.

What is cardiac death?
Answer:


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What are tissue transplants?
Answer: Donated tissues may include bone, tendons, ligaments, heart valves, skin, veins, cartilage, corneas, etc. These tissues treat a wide range of problems. They can restore sight, movement, and heart action. They can speed healing and repair damaged skin, bone and muscle. They can also help prevent removal of limbs damaged by cancer, infection or injury.

What is the cornea?
Answer: The cornea is the clear tissue covering the front of your eye. It is the part that helps you see.


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What is corneal blindness?
Answer: It is a condition where the clear tissue is clouded making a person unable to see. This can be caused by a disease, injury or infection.

What is a corneal transplant?
Answer: Surgery that takes the bad tissue covering the eye and replaces it with healthy tissue.


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When are organs recovered?
Answer: Organ recovery is within 18 to 24 hours of death. Organs need to be removed from the body by the doctor. Once a person is declared brain dead, the person is kept on a breathing machine to keep the oxygen and blood moving to the vital organs. The person is moved to surgery to recover the organs. Organs are then stored on ice and taken to the hospital where the person is waiting to receive the gift.

What is a living related kidney donor?
Answer: A person who is kin to the recipient, like a parent, brother, sister, or child.


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What is a living unrelated kidney donor?
Answer: A person who is not kin, like a friend, spouse or co-worker.

What is an altruistic kidney donor?
Answer: This donor is sometimes called a Good Samaritan donor. This is a person who donates their kidney to someone they do not know.


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Does a chronic health problem keep me from being a donor?
Answer: No. A person’s health does not rule out donation. Even a person with cancer, Hepatitis C or diabetes can donate certain gifts. The type of cancer diagnosis and location of the cancer plays a role. A full medical review is made at the time of death by a medical team. Never count yourself out as a likely donor.

What medical conditions prohibit donation?
Answer:


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Donation Process...

Who is in charge of the organ donation process?
What happens to my donated organs and tissue?
What is a direct donation?
Can I direct a donation?
Can organs be given to people of different racial group or gender?
Does the registry allow me to sign up as a marrow or living donor?
Is the registry used for whole body donation?
When must organs be recovered?
Can my body be donated for the study of science after donation of organs and tissue?
How can my organs and tissues be used for research?
I may need an organ transplant. How do I get my name on the list?

Who is in charge of the organ donation process?
Answer: The federally chosen, non-profit, organ procurement organizations (OPO) are in charge of the process. Missouri has two that serve different part of the state; Mid-America Transplant Services and Midwest Transplant Network. Missouri also has a tissue bank, Saving Sight. The agencies are in charge of and make the donation process easy. The recovery and transplant process is regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a Division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What happens to my donated organs and tissue?
Answer: Patients receive organs and tissues based upon blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and other medical criteria.


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What is a direct donation?
Answer: A request by a donor or donor family to give the gift to a named person. The gift must go through a medical review and match the named person. Most often, the donor or donor family is related to or knows the named person. Click here for more details.

Can I direct a donation?
Answer:

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Can organs be given to people of different racial group or gender?
Answer: Yes. However organ size, which is affected by gender, is critical to match a donor heart, lung or liver with a recipient. Genetic makeup can be a factor when matching a kidney or pancreas donor and recipient because of the importance of tissue matching. Optimal tissue matching can happen within the same racial and genetic background. For example, an individual of Asian descent may match better with a kidney donated from another Asian versus a different race. However, cross-racial donations can and do happen with great success when matches are available.

Does the registry allow me to sign up as a marrow or living donor?
Answer: No. The registry is used for organ, eye and tissue donation after death. The website provides links to information about blood, marrow and living donation. Click to learn more.


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Is the registry used for whole body donation?
Answer: No. The donor Registry is for the gift of organs, tissues and eyes. If your organs are not good enough for transplant, they can be used for research and medical education. Under Gift Specifications, be sure to select "Transplant, Therapy, Research, Education." This is not the same as whole body donation. If you choose to give your whole body for research and education, you must make plans for this in advance of your death with the institute of your choice. Click to learn more. Note: If you choose to consent to whole body donation, you may not be able to donate your organs or tissues for transplant.

When must organs be recovered?
Answer: Organs are recovered as soon as possible after death is legally declared. Tissue can be removed up to 24 hours after death.


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Can my body be donated for the study of science after donation of organs and tissue?
Answer: YES. But, each academic institution has its own guidelines about accepting body donations. Not all academic institutions will accept body donations after organ and tissue donation. If you are interested in body donation it is recommended that you check with the academic institutions you wish to support. They can answer specific questions about organ and tissue donation and pre-arrange the donation of your body for the advancement of science.

How can my organs and tissues be used for research?
Answer: Organs and tissues which are not fit for transplant may be used for research. Recovery is done by the local organ procurement organization. Research must be approved as medical research. The donor's registry record must indicate research or, the donor family must give the okay to proceed.

I may need an organ transplant. How do I get my name on the list?


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Family Issues...

Do I have to tell my family?
What if my family is against my donation?
Will donation affect memorial or funeral arrangements?
Can my relatives make the donation decision?
Is there support for donor families?

Do I have to tell my family?
Answer: No. Your family will be notified of your decision to donate at the time of your death. You are strongly encouraged to inform family now so it will not be a surprise to them at a very difficult time.

What if my family is against my donation?
Answer: Your registry record serves as first-person consent and your choice will be honored. At the time when donation is possible, family members will be informed of your choice to donate. Family will be informed about the donation process. Family learns the process and about how their loved one will be handled with great care. In the case of sudden death, it will ease the family's pain to know your choice.


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Will donation affect memorial or funeral arrangements? Answer:

Can my relatives make the donation decision?
Answer: If you have recorded your decision to be an organ and tissue donor and have not revoked that decision, then your relatives cannot make the decision for you. In the absence of a donor designation or if a person is under the age of 18 and is not an emancipated minor, the law provides a priority list of who is responsible for making the final donation decision.

Is there support for donor families?
Answer: Yes! There are three agencies that offer support to families. It does not matter where your family member donated. Call one of these agencies:

Mid-America Transplant Services: (314) 991-1661
Midwest Transplant Network: (913) 261-6106
Saving Sight: (800) 753-2265


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