The following steps take place once a family provies authorization for organ and/or tissue donation:
In accordance with state and federal regulations, hospitals are required to contact The Living Legacy Foundation in the event of a patient’s death or imminent death. LLF and the hospitals in our service area have established policies to guide this process, establishing the clinical triggers for making referrals and ensuring the confidentiality of patient information. When the hospital staff contacts our team, we review the potential donor’s medical status and assess his/her potential suitability as a donor.
Our Family Services Coordinators work closely with hospital staff to make a collaborative plan regarding the timing for discussing donation options with the family. This process includes determining whether the patient had made an autonomous decision to designate his/her wish to be a donor through a document of gift, such as through their driver’s license, donor registry, advance directive or living will. If the patient had designated themselves as a donor, the family would be provided a disclosure form, outlining the steps in the donation process. If the patient was not designated, the Family Service Coordinator would review the organs and tissues which the patient could potentially donate and complete an authorization form with the legal next of kin. A thorough physical exam is conducted and a medical/social history is obtained from the next of kin to ensure the safety and suitability of the organs and tissues being considered for donation.
If the family authorizes organ donation, we work collaboratively, with the hospital staff to manage the critical care medical and nursing needs of the donor, while conducting further evaluation and testing to determine which organs are suitable for transplant, under the direction of LLF's Medical Director, Nadar Habashi, MD.. Our team ensures that donor families do not incur any financial costs related to the evaluation and recovery of organs and tissues by working closely with the donor hospital.
Medical information about the organ donor is sent to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) which operates a centralized computer system that matches the organ donor's characteristics to those of waiting recipients. The UNOS database system generates a "match list" based on algorithms which take into account many factors, including: blood type, time waiting and distance between the donor hospital and potential recipient. The transplant center where the recipient is listed makes a determination whether the organ offered will be suitable for their patient. This information is communicated between UNOS, LLF and the transplant centers. Once the organs have been allocated, plans are made for the surgical recovery process.
While organs are allocated based on allocation algorithms, tissues are allocated based on medical need. When tissues are recovered, they are then processed and stored by the processing organization, awaiting allocation based on patient need. Physicians and surgeons at hospitals, burn centers and wound care facilities request tissue from these processing organizations, based on their patient’s specific needs.
All organs and tissues recovered for transplantation are thoroughly screened and tested to ensure recipient safety.
Like other surgeres, the organ recovery surgery takes place in an operating room. Tissue recoveries take place either in a hospital operating room or other recovery suite which meets operating room standards. The surgical procedures for organ and tissue donation generally last several hours. The surgical recovery teams take great care to ensure that the donor is treated with the utmost respect and dignity throughout the process.
Our Family Services Coordinators are dedicated to meeting the needs and requests of families throughout the donation process. An extensive two-year after care support program is available to families, offering bereavement services, follow up information, and programs designed to honor the memory and legacy of their loved ones
Among the ways we honor the legacy of donors is to provide each family with a Medal of Honor from The Living Legacy Foundation. LLF also offers Donor Memorial Cards, which can be customized with a picture and wording of the family’s choosing. These memorial cards can be provided to the donor family within a few days, so they may be used at the funeral or memorial service. Every April, during National Donate Life Month, we host a Ceremony of Remembrance attended by donor families and recipients.