All About Donation

Frequently Asked Questions About the NYS Registry

What organs and tissues can I donate?

You can donate your heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. You can also donate eyes, and tissues such as heart valves, cardiovascular tissue, bone and soft musculoskeletal tissue, and skin.

Who can be a donor?

All people can be considered as being potential organ, tissue and eye donors after death has been declared. Nothing should be ruled out. A doctor will make a medical determination at the time of death.Patients who have Hepatitis C may still donate organs to a patient who also has Hepatitis C. The same is true for Hepatitis B — but this happens less frequently. Most cancer patients may donate corneas.

If I register to be a donor, will the hospital staff still try as hard to save my life?

Without a doubt. Hospital staff members’ only objective is to save lives. Donation can only occur after the death of a patient has been declared by physicians who are not in any way affiliated with donation or the transplant recovery teams.

Does my religion support donation?

Yes. All major religions publicly endorse donation as the highest gesture of humanitarianism. At a minimum, it’s a matter of individual conscience. Religious Viewpoints on Donation

Don’t famous and rich people get transplanted faster?

No. The organ transplant waiting list is completely blind to wealth or celebrity status. The severity of illness, time spent waiting for an organ, and blood type are what matters for people waiting.

Are transplants successful?

Success rates for organs average 80 ‑ 90 percent, depending upon type of organ and type of donor (deceased or living). At the end of 2006, the latest year for which data is available, there were 173,339 people in the United States who were living with functioning transplanted organs. (Source: 2008 OPTN/SRTR Annual Report). An estimated 1,500,000-2,000,000 allografts (bone or soft tissue transplanted from one person to another) are transplanted each year in the United States. (Source: Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation)

There are more than 42,000 cornea transplants performed in the United States each year. Cornea transplant procedures enjoy a 95% success rate.(Source: The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration)

Is there a shortage of donors?

Yes, more than 120,000 men, women and children are waiting for organs for transplantation in the United States. Every 10 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organs. On average, 18 people die every day because of the lack of donated organs.

Aren’t I too old to be a donor?

Not necessarily. It’s important not to rule yourself out! Your medical history is more important than your age. For example, individuals who were 92-years-old have donated their livers in the United States.

Will my family have to pay for donation?

No. A family of an organ, tissue and/or eye donor is never responsible for costs related to donation.

Will donation interfere with funeral arrangements?

No. Donation doesn’t disfigure the body or delay funeral arrangements. Open-casket viewing is possible after any type donation.

I’m not yet 18. Can I still decide to be a donor?

Yes. Although you can’t sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry, your parents or guardians can authorize this decision. So if you want to become a donor, it’s important to tell them that you wish to donate.

How is a potential organ recipient identified?

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a national computerized waiting list of transplant candidates. An evaluation of medical compatibility includes size and blood type, medical urgency and location. The patient’s financial background doesn’t determine who receives a transplant.

Will I really be dead when they declare that I died?

Yes. “Although it's a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don't start to wiggle their toes after they're declared dead,” the Mayo Clinic points out on its website. “In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they're truly dead than are those who haven't agreed to organ donation.”

What is Brain Death?

A patient is brain dead when all brain and brain stem functions cease and they cannot breath on their own. Once the patient is declared brain dead, the person is legally dead. A brain dead person can be maintained on a breathing machine that provides oxygen to their heart and other organs. Despite declaration of death, the organs can be kept healthy for organ donation by providing them blood supply and oxygen. All donors in New York and the U.S. are either brain dead or dead by cessation of a heart beat before they are eligible to donate organs. The New York Organ Donor Network adheres to New York State guidelines for declaration of death and verifies that donor hospital guidelines have been observed prior to proceeding with organ donation.

What is Donation after Cardiac Death?

Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD) applies to patients who aren’t brain dead but who have suffered a non-recoverable illness or injury and are ventilator dependent. Consent for DCD is only sought after the next-of-kin have made the decision to remove the ventilator. DCD allows most commonly for the recovery of livers and kidneys, but also the pancreas, lungs, and, in rare instances, hearts.

How can I be a tissue and eye donor?

Either in the case of brain death, or when an individual cardiac arrests at a hospital, individuals may share the gift of life with others through tissue and eye (corneal) donation. A brain dead donor may also be a donor of solid organs.

If I don’t register to be a donor, who will be able to give consent on my behalf?

By law in New York State, if there is no documentation that a person was a designated donor, there is an order of priority for authorized individuals who make decisions about donation when someone has died:

A designated health care agent; An agent for the disposition of remains (burial agent); A patient's domestic partner if there is no spouse or the spouse is legally separated from the patient; Adult Children Parents; Adult Siblings; Guardian, or any other person authorized or under the obligation to dispose of the body.

Do donor families and recipients remain anonymous?

Yes. The identity of the donor, the donor’s family and the recipient(s) are confidential. A recipient can know the donor’s sex, approximate age and state in which he/she lived. When transplant recipients have recovered from their surgery, they are encouraged to write anonymous thank you letters to their donor families. These letters mean a great deal to the families. The anonymous letters are conveyed by third parties — transplant centers and the organ procurement organizations.

What is Living Donation?

There aren’t enough organs donated by deceased donors to meet all of the needs of patients awaiting organ transplants. So transplant teams throughout the country have developed new techniques and procedures to save more patients' lives through living donor transplants. Living donation is handled by each individual transplant center where the recipient is waiting. It’s now possible for a living person to donate a kidney, a portion of his or her liver, a portion of a lung and in some rare instances, a portion of the pancreas.

What is Total Body Donation?

The complete body may be donated for the purpose of medical education and research. The New York Organ Donor Network can facilitate donation to a research institution, but only after the organs have been turned down as a potential donation, for example, for medical reasons. For further information about Whole Body Donation, contact the Associated Medical Schools of New York at 212-218-4610.

What is Directed Donation?

Directed donation is a request made by a donor or donor family to transplant a specific recipient. This practice is legally authorized by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) and by most state anatomical gift laws, which use the UAGA as a guide. The policy of the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), operated by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) under federal contract, recognizes directed donation as long as the agencies involved take steps to verify the medical suitability of the organ offer for the specified recipient. The Federal regulation that guides the OPTN (the OPTN Final Rule) expressly allows directed donation to a named individual. The role of transplant professionals is to ensure that any donor offer is handled properly and that the safety and interests of the donor and donor family are protected.  [Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Press Release, May 29, 2009]

How do I donate bone marrow?

The New York Organ Donor Network’s mission is to coordinate donation from deceased persons for organ, tissue and eye transplantation. If you wish to find out about bone marrow donation, call the New York Blood Center: 1-800-692-5663.

How can I make changes to my information or withdraw from the Donate Life Registry?

If you need to make changes to your information or you decide you do not want to become an organ, tissue and eye donor and you want your name taken off the Donate Life Registry, write to:

 

The New York State Donate Life Registry

New York State Department of Health

875 Central Avenue

Albany, NY 12206

 

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I want the Donor Heart Symbol added to (or removed from) my DMV driver's license or ID How do I get a new one?

In order to get the heart symbol added to or removed from your ID, you will need to order a new one. Please complete an MV-44 at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). You can download this form http://www.dmv.ny.gov/forms/mv44edl.pdf or go to your local DMV office.