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Organ Donation and Transplant

At this moment, more than 105,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ. Four thousand more people are added to the national waiting list each day.

Each of these people is in desperate need of a kidney, liver, heart, or other organ. More than 6,500 people a year -- about 18 a day -- die before that organ ever becomes available.

Organ donors are always in short supply. There are far more people in need of a transplant than there are people willing to donate an organ.

Most of the organs that are available come from deceased donors. When you fill out an organ donor card with your driver's license, you're agreeing to donate all or some of your organs if you die.

A smaller number of organs come from healthy people. About 6,000 transplants from living donors are performed each year.

You might have wondered about donating an organ -- either to a friend or relative who needs an organ right now, or by filling out an organ donor card. Before you decide to become an organ donor, here is some important information you need to consider.

Organ Donation: The Facts

Here are a few questions you might be asking if you're considering organ donation:

Who can donate an organ?

Just about anyone, at any age, can become an organ donor. Anyone younger than 18 needs to have the consent of a parent or guardian.

For organ donation after death, a medical assessment will be done to determine what organs can be donated. Certain conditions, such as having HIV, actively spreading cancer, or severe infection would exclude organ donation.

Having a serious condition like cancer, HIV, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease can prevent you from donating as a living donor.

Let your transplant team know about any health conditions you have at the beginning of the process. Then they can decide whether you're a good candidate.

Do my blood and tissue type have to match the recipient's?

It's easier to transplant an organ if the donor and recipient are a good match. The transplant team will put you through a series of tests to determine whether your blood and tissue types are compatible with the recipient's.

Some medical centers can transplant an organ even if the donor's and recipient's blood and tissue types don't match. In that case, the recipient will receive special treatments to prevent his or her body from rejecting the new organ.

How can I become an organ donor?

To donate your organs after death, you can either register with your state's donor registry (visit OrganDonor.gov), or fill out an organ donor card when you get or renew your driver's license.

To become a living donor, you can either work directly with your family member or friend's transplant team, or contact a transplant center in your area to find out who's in need of an organ.

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