Donor organs are in demand-there are currently more than 100,000
people on the national
organ transplant waiting list. If you are interested
in donating an organ, contact the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) at
1-888-894-6361 or go online at www.unos.org to get more information and to
locate the nearest transplant center.
Many people choose to donate
their organs upon their death. If you decide to be an organ donor upon your death, make sure your family, friends, and doctor know about your wishes. You may want to fill out a donor card. Or you can prepare a living will or advance care directive that describes your wishes to be an organ donor. For more information, see the topic Planning to Be an Organ Donor.
People can also donate some organs (such as a kidney
or portion of liver) while they are still living. These people are called
"living donors." For more information, see the topic Living Organ Donation.
Although controversial, Internet donor-matching services
have appeared in recent years to help people who need an organ transplant
to contact potential living donors. Some experts believe these services undermine
the current system, which is based on donated organs going to people who are
most in need and those waiting the longest for a donor. Others believe online
donor matching services provide a useful resource for helping people who have
had problems finding a donor within the current system. For more information
about these services, talk to your doctor.
Two types of surgery
are commonly used to remove an organ or a portion of an organ from a living
- Open surgery involves cutting the skin,
muscles, and tissues to remove the organ. When open surgery is done, the person
may have more pain and a longer recovery time.
Laparoscopic surgery is a procedure in which a surgeon
makes a number of small incisions and uses scopes to remove a kidney from a
You do not have to be a blood relative (such as a sibling
or parent) of a living donor to receive a donor organ. A living donor can be
someone who is emotionally related to you such as a close friend or spouse, or
the donor can even be a stranger. In order to become a living donor, the person
must be in good health, physically fit, free from chronic diseases such as
diabetes or high blood pressure, free from psychiatric conditions, and between
the ages of 18 to 60. Race and gender are not important considerations for
becoming a living donor.