Q: Who can become an organ and tissue donor?
A: Anyone can decide to be a donor. A person’s physical condition, not his or her age, determines the potential for organ and tissue donation and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of death. Visit your local Motor Vehicle Agency and ask for the donor designation to be added to your driver’s license or ID card and let your family see that you support organ donation. Register online through the Motor Vehicle Commission.
Q: Which organs can be donated?
A: Currently, someone may be able to donate his or her heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, and small intestine depending on their age, medical condition and circumstances at the time of death. Many patients who are organ donors may also be candidates for tissue donation following the organ recovery.
Q: Is there an age limit for donation?
A: There is no age limit for organ donation. NJ Sharing Network has successfully procured organs from donors as young as a few days to adults in their 90s. A patient's medical history is more important than the age of the donor. If a patient has a normal functioning organ and is in good health, then organ donation is certainly an option.
Q: How are donated organs allocated?
A: They are allocated on the following criteria: match with donor, medical emergency and time on waiting list. A patient’s age, gender, race, ethnicity or wealth do not affect who receives available organs.
Q: Will my family be charged for organ donation, and will donation affect funeral arrangements?
A: No. There are no costs to the family for donation. Organ and tissue donation does not interfere with customary funeral plans, including those with open casket viewings.
Q: Can my relatives make the donation decision?
A: In the absence of the donor designation or if an individual is under 18, the family is responsible for making all decisions regarding donation. This is why you should talk to your family about your wishes.
Q: When must organs be recovered?
A: Organs are recovered as soon as possible after the determination of brain death. The ventilator (breathing machine) will continue to provide oxygen to the organs until arrangements are made for the organ recovery surgery. Tissue may be removed within 12 to 24 hours.
Q: What kind of diseases affect donation?
A: Presence of active cancer, active HIV or active infection would absolutely rule-out donation. If a person has a history of Hepatitis, more information would need to be obtained at the time of death. Patients who have Hepatitis C may still donate organs to a patient who also has Hepatitis C. The same is true for Hepatitis B - but this happens less frequently.
Q: How successful are organ transplants?
A: Success rates for vital organs average 80 - 90 percent, and over 90 percent for various types of tissue transplants.
Q: Do all religions support organ and tissue donation?
A: Yes. Every major religion supports donation and considers it the greatest gift a person can give.
Q: Isn’t it true that organs can be “bought” by the wealthy and the powerful?
A. Organs are computer matched according to compatibility of donor and recipient tissue, determined by various tests, waiting time, and the medical need of the recipient. Social or financial data are not part of the computer database and therefore, are not factors in the determination of who receives and organ.
Q: Will my own medical care be compromised if the hospital is aware that I have an organ donor designation on my license?
A. The decision to be an organ donor will in no way affect the level of medical care for a sick or injured person. The team of doctors and nurses involved in treating the patient is not involved with the transplant/recovery team, which is called only after death has occurred.
Q: Do I have to renew my organ donor designation every time my license is renewed?
A: Yes. Every time you renew your license, be sure to indicate your donor designation. You can also register online at www.donatelifenj.org.
Q: What is being done to close the gap between patients on the transplant list and those receiving organ transplants?
A: Living donation is one solution to this problem by eliminating deaths on the transplant waiting list. Living donations may come from altruistic donors (those without a familial or other relationship with a particular patient in need-they are simply motivated to help others) or from donors in a living donor kidney exchange program (in NJ it is the Mid-Atlantic Paired Exchange Program). The living registry is designed to bring together pairs of willing donors and people in need of transplant who are incompatible in regard to blood type or other indicators with other non-matching pairs. Then by re-sorting the pairs, compatible matches can be made to allow for kidney exchange. This process to make living donations more widely available is a great benefit to transplant recipients. Studies have shown that a live donor kidney remains functioning twice as long, on average, as a kidney received from a deceased donor. These new advances in registration and matching techniques will greatly enhance the potential for living donations and help to alleviate the shortage of much needed transplant organs. As a result, more lives of the over 3,600 New Jersey men, women and children on the waiting list for a kidney transplant will be saved or enhanced.
Q. How does the living registry work?
A: NJ Sharing Network registers interested incompatible pairs in three different national registries which contains all the necessary medical information of donor/recipient pairs. Each registry runs a matching program at different intervals and then notifies the transplant center and NJ Sharing Network of the potential matches. The matches are then reviewed with the respective incompatible pairs and if accepted will move to the testing phase. When compatibility is confirmed all of the pairs will be notified and the transplant centers start working out the logistics of performing all of the surgeries. At times the donor from each pair that matches will travel to the recipient site, but more often the surgery to remove the kidney is done at the center where the recipient is listed and the kidney is transported. Our centers have participated in exchanges with as many as 6 different patients getting transplanted at one time from matching through these registries. The ability to bring together donor-recipient pairs will increase the potential for living donations. However, there are guidelines and requirements that must be considered before a donor-recipient pair can be placed in the registry. A potential donor must be:
* 18 years or older
* in good health and willing to undergo a variety of
tests to verify health conditions
* willing to donate for purely altruistic reasons
The program is available only to those transplant candidates who have no known compatible living donors. It should also be noted that those in need of a transplant will continue to remain on the waiting list for a transplant from a deceased donor, even during the evaluation stage of this donation process. To allow everyone in need an equal opportunity to receive a donation, it is important to understand that the transplant team completely directs the matching of compatible pairs and will not accept the input or solicitation of recipient-donor pairs by any other party. For more information, contact Registrar, Mid-Atlantic Paired Exchange Program at 1-800-742-7365.