Making the choice to donate organs, tissues, marrow, platelets and blood can all help save the lives of others. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Feb. 14 as a day for health organizations to promote awareness of these types of donations. Dr. David Arai, emergency department medical director at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, answers a few questions to help explain the process of donation.
Q: What are the steps in order to become an organ or tissue donor?
First, designate on your driver’s license that you wish to be a donor. Tell your family and friends about your decision, and tell your physician and/or faith leader. Be sure to add your decision to be a donor to your advance directives, will and living will to make sure your wishes are known.
Q: Why should I talk to my family about being a donor?
You should absolutely talk to your family and close personal friends about your decision to donate. By discussing it upfront, you have a chance to work through any fears or objections they may have about donation. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur, and if they say no, the hospital may refuse to accept your organs.
Q: Who can be a donor?
All individuals can indicate their intent to donate, but people under the age of 18 must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Medical suitability for donation is determined at the time of death.
Q: What are the benefits of being an organ or tissue donor?
It’s the greatest gift you can give — the gift of life. You can provide a second chance for thousands of people each year.
Q: Does being a donor affect my medical care?
Absolutely not. The medical team trying to save your life is independent of the transplant team. Every effort will be made to save your life before donation is considered.
Q: Can you choose who you want to donate to?
“Directed donation” of an organ to a specific individual is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation. Directed donation is best supported by an advance directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.
Q: How do physicians determine who will receive the donation?
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) matches donated organs with critically ill patients on the national waiting list. Medical urgency, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and issues of compatibility such as blood type, tissue match and body size are considerations in determining who receives a transplant.
Q: How is a good match determined?
Factors such as race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ transplant; additionally, buying or selling organs is against the law. However, organ size (which can be 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 within those two organs. Optimal tissue matching can happen within the same racial and genetic background. However, cross-racial donations can and do happen with great success when matches are available.
Q: Does the donor or donor's family have to pay for the donation?
No. Your family pays for your medical care but not for organ donation. Costs related to donation are paid by the recipient, usually through insurance, Medicare or Medicaid
Q: How many people are waiting for an organ or tissue donation?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 112,000 people are waiting, and approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month. Centennial is committed to promoting organ and tissue donation, and in 2010, had nearly 400 donations. This commitment earned the hospital recognition in the “leadership circle” of hospitals that partner with the Transplant Services Center at UT Southwestern in Dallas.
For more information, visit Centennial’s website at CentennialMedCenter.com. Find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/CentennialMedCenter or Twitter at @CenMedFrisco.