People tend to have a lot of questions about donation once they really start thinking about it. Below are some common questions students may ask while discussing organ and tissue donation in the classroom, along with the answers to these questions.
Currently, more than 2,000 Maryland residents and more than 112,000 people nationwide are waiting for life-saving transplants. The critical shortage of organs for transplant and the need for tissue donation is one of the few healthcare issues facing our nation that we can remedy simply by registering one’s wishes to be a designated organ, eye and tissue donor. The need for transplants affects men, women and children of all ages, walks of life and backgrounds.
Virtually anyone regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ, eye and tissue donor. Donors typically are people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in brain death. Medical eligibility depends on many factors and must be determined after the donor's death. Virtually all deceased persons, regardless of cause of death, may potentially be eye and/or tissue donors.
If an individual is in need of an organ transplant, their healthcare provider contacts a transplant hospital and has the individual evaluated for medical necessity of a transplant, as well as tested for blood and tissue type and other medical criteria. The individual is then placed on the national list to wait for an available matching organ suitable for transplantation. That list is administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS); UNOS manages the UNOS Organ Center, which stores data for all individuals awaiting an organ transplant of any type, and then matches those individuals to organs that become available. Contrary to popular belief, although time spent on the list is a consideration, it is not the primary factor considered for position on the waiting list; rather, it is medical need for transplantation. Other factors considered are blood and tissue type, organ size and distance between donor and recipient.
While UNOS is the organization that matches donors to recipients, OPOs are federally designated, not-for-profit organizations responsible for managing the recovery and placement of organs and tissues for transplant. They also manage donor registration and education within a specific region. The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland is the OPO serving all of Maryland with the exception of Charles, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which are covered by Washington Regional Transplant Community, the OPO serving the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area.
Yes, the information gathered at the MVA and the information gathered online at www.donatelifemaryland.org is distributed to the same database. While you need to register to become a donor EVERY TIME you obtain or renew your license in the state of Maryland, if you register online, you only have to do so once. You can change your decision at a later date by going online.
Organs and tissues are recovered in a surgical procedure which does not disfigure the body and should not interfere with customary funeral arrangements. The body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and the donor's appearance following donation still allows for an open-casket funera. From the time the donation process begins, the entire process is usually completed within 24 to 36 hours, and the family may then proceed with funeral arrangements.
The Maryland Donor Registry, www.donatelifemaryland.org, allows you to specify which organs and tissues you’d like to donate. At the time of death, organ and tissue medical suitability is determined and discussions are completed with family members regarding which organs and tissues will be able to be donated.
Federal law requires hospitals to report all deaths and imminent deaths to their local OPO. The OPO works with hospitals to coordinate identification, evaluation, recovery, and transport of donated organs. This notification from the hospital allows the OPOs to determine whether the person is medically suitable to be a donor and to discuss with family members of potential donors the option of donating their loved one’s organs and tissues.
Once you sign up with the Donate Life Maryland registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ, eye and tissue recovery. Should you be in the position to donate, your next of kin will be presented with documentation of your registration but will not have the power to override your decision. It is important to tell your family or healthcare power of attorney of your wishes so they may be prepared to cooperate with the health care team about your medical history.
Confidentiality is provided both for the donor families and the recipients. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive general infomraiton, such as age, gender, occupation and state of residence. Indicidually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of the donor's death. The donor family may recieve information on the transplnts that were performed and improvements to the health of the recipients.
Many families find corresponding with their loved one's transplant recipient to be a meaningful aid in their grieving process. If a donor family wishes to correspond with their loved one's recipients, or vice versa, the organ transplant organiztion that coordinated the donation will act as a liasion to faciliate the anonymous correspondence. The release of names and contact information, as well as phone calls and face-to-face meetings are faciliated only if agreed to by both parties.