Common questions about being an Organ Donor

Why should I reaffirm my decision to be an organ and tissue donor?

In Illinois and Indiana, you are not required by law to reaffirm or re-register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor. Once you join the First Person Authorization registry (whether through the driver's facility, online, over the phone or through the mail), you will remain in the registry until you pass away or remove yourself.

But, we encourage you to reaffirm your decision through the Hospitals for Hope campaign to show your support for organ and tissue donation and to help your hospital reach its goals for the campaign. All reaffirmations are entered into the First Person Authorization registry. Duplicate entries in the registry will not affect your registration status. 

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Major organs that can be donated for transplant are the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated are the corneas, bone, saphenous and femoral veins, heart valves and skin

What organs and tissues are most needed?

Corneas and kidneys are needed most in terms of the number of people waiting. In terms of lifesaving ability, hearts, lungs and livers are needed most.

Who can be a donor?

Virtually anyone regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ and tissue donor. Donors typically are healthy people who have suffered from a life-ending trauma and are declared dead. Medical eligibility depends on many factors and must be determined after the donor''s death.

Are there costs associated with organ and tissue donation?

There is no cost to the donor''s family or estate. All costs associated with the donation are covered by the organ procurement organization (OPO). Organ donation is a gift and it is illegal in the United States to buy or sell organs or tissues.

Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?

The vast majority of religious groups support donation as the highest gesture of humanitarianism. Some religions have taken a proactive stance with a resolution or adopted a position that encourages people to seriously consider donation and plan accordingly.

When must organs be removed?

Organs must be removed as soon as possible after the determination of brain death, while circulation and respiration are being maintained artificially. Tissues may be removed within 12 to 24 hours after death.

How long can organs and tissues survive before being transplanted?

Organs may be transported hundreds or thousands of miles to reach recipients waiting in transplant centers, thanks to advances in medical technology and improved preservation techniques. Approximate preservation times are:

  • Heart/lung: 4 to 6 hours
  • Pancreas: 12 to 24 hours
  • Liver: Up to 24 hours
  • Kidneys: 48 to 72 hours
  • Corneas: Must be transplanted within 5 to 7 days
  • Heart valves, skin, bone, saphenous veins: May be preserved from 3 to 10 years

Can organs be donated to someone of a different race or ethnicity?

Yes. Organ size is critical to match donor and recipient hearts, livers and lungs. But genetic makeup is also important when matching kidneys; therefore, African-Americans will 'match' better with a kidney donated from an African-American than any other race—as will Asians with Asians, etc.

How is a potential recipient identified?

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the national computer system listing of donors and candidates for transplant. Recipients are identified through a comprehensive evaluation of medical compatibility, including size and blood type, medical urgency and geographic location. The social or financial positions of the recipient are not factors in determining who is transplanted.

Does the donor’s family get to meet the recipient?

A donor’s family will be told the age, sex, state and other general characteristics of recipients. If both the donor family and the recipient agree to release information to one another, they may exchange names, correspond and even meet. This process is coordinated through the organ procurement organization.