Curious about organ donation? Here’s what you need to know

Doctor close-up of a doctor showing a picture of a kidney on a tablet in a hospital

With a float in this year’s Rose Bowl parade celebrating organ donation, there are a lot of questions many have about the process and why they should donate their organs.

Legacy of Hope, the Alabama organ donation alliance, said over 1,400 Alabama residents are waiting for a life-saving transplant, with 471 lives saved in 2018.

2.9 million residents across the state are on the registry.

Can I become an organ donor?

The federal government organ donation website, Organdonor.gov, says anyone 18 and older can join the national and state organ donor registries and donate as long as they and their organs are in healthy condition.

The Tennessee donor registry also allows anyone between 13 and 17 to join as long as they have a state ID, driver’s license, or leaner’s permit. However, their parents will have the final say on organ and tissue donation if that decision needs to be made.

Even if you have health issues, you could still donate even one organ, which could save or improve a life.

What can be donated?

  • Heart
  • Both kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Both lungs
  • Liver
  • Intestines
  • Hands
  • Face
  • Tissue
    • Cornea
    • Skin
    • Heart valves
    • Bone
    • Blood vessels
    • Connective tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Stem Cells
  • Umbilical Cord
  • Peripheral blood stem cells (replacing blood-forming stem cells lost during procedures such as cancer treatment)

How do I register to donate?

There are two registries: The National Donor Registry and the state registry.

In Alabama and Tennessee, if you checked “yes” to organ donation when applying for or renewing your license, you’re already on the state list.

If you didn’t check “yes,” you can make your decision when applying for or renewing your driver’s license or state ID at your local DMV or visit your state’s registry online.

In Alabama, Legacy of Hope manages the state registry, and you can sign up here.

In Tennessee, Donate Life Tennessee manages the state registry donation registry, and you can sign up here.

You’ll need to check “yes” every time you renew to stay on the list.

You can join the national registry here or in the iPhone Health app.

Who will get my organs if I decide to donate?

It’s possible anybody could get your organs if you donate. People of different races match frequently, according to organdonor.gov.

The matching process includes many factors such as location, how long a recipient has been on the list, medical need, and determining blood and tissue type.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network handles the matching process and it varies based on the organ being transplanted.

Does my decision to donate affect the care I get in the hospital?

No. The medical teams saving your life will do everything in their power before donation becomes a possibility. A separate team handles organ retrieval should it be necessary.

The donation process only begins once brain death is confirmed. In those cases, a potential donor must have no brain activity and be unable to breathe without a machine.

Legacy of Hope says in Alabama, two doctors have to mutually agree that a patient is brain dead before the process starts.

Where can I find more information?

If you’re trying to decide or just want more information, there are multiple resources.

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