Transplantation Center

How to Become
an Organ Donor

You can save lives by becoming an organ and tissue donor. Ninety thousand (90,000) Americans are waiting for an organ transplant.

Don't delay your decision to be an organ donor because of a belief you've never fully explored. Here are answers to some common organ transplant myths and concerns:

Become an Organ Donor

A message from David C. Mulligan, MD, FACS

Director of Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center

Myth: Only a small number of people need an organ donation.

FACT: Thousands of Americans currently are waiting for organ transplants. At this time, the need for organs is far greater than their availability. Each year, thousands of adults and children die waiting for organs that never become available.

Myth: There is a black market for organs.

FACT: A national system is in place to ensure the fair distribution of organs in the United States. Recipients are chosen based on many factors, including their immediate need, blood type, and medical matching. The buying and selling of organs is against the law.

Myth: The system is set up to give preferential treatment to people of certain races.

FACT: The national organ transplant waiting list is colorblind. Among all of the medical data listed on the transplant list for each person waiting, no race information is specified. When a donor organ becomes available, those allocating the organ don't know the race of those waiting for it. Allocation is made according to medical data, the severity of the illness and time spent on the waiting list.

Myth: Rich, famous and powerful people always seem to move to the front of the line when they need a donor organ. There's no way to ensure that my organs will go to those who've waited the longest or are the neediest.

FACT: The rich and famous aren't given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently than anyone else. In fact, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization responsible for maintaining the national organ transplant network, subjects all celebrity transplants to an internal audit to make sure the organ allocation was appropriate. Remember, too, that it would be unfair to deny someone a transplant simply because he or she is a celebrity.

Deceased Donor Information

Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, my doctor or the emergency room staff won't work as hard to save my life. They'll remove my organs as soon as possible to save somebody else.

FACT: When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life - not somebody else's. Becoming an organ donor does not affect the quality of the person's medical care. Organ surgery takes place only after all efforts to save the person's life have been exhausted and a patient has been legally declared dead.

Myth: My body will look different if I donate my organs.

FACT: Donation is a surgical procedure. The body's natural appearance is maintained. As in any other medical procedure, the body is treated with great respect and dignity.

Myth: My family will be charged for donating a loved one's organs.

FACT: There are no costs whatsoever to a person's family for him/her to be an organ donor.

Myth: Religions forbid organ and tissue donation.

FACT: All major religions approve of organ and tissue donation, and consider it a gift and an act of charity.

Myth: My loved one will experience pain during the donation process.

FACT: Your loved one will not feel pain. Even after death, every effort is made to ensure that your loved one's body is treated with the same degree of respect as is given a living patient.

Myth: I'm too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.

FACT: There's no defined cutoff age for donating organs. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: I'm not in the greatest health, and my eyesight is poor. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.

FACT: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don't disqualify yourself prematurely. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.

Living Donor Information

Myth: I would like to donate one of my kidneys now, rather than wait until my death. But I hear you can't do that unless you're a close family member of someone in need. I don't have a family member in need. I just want to help someone - even a perfect stranger.

FACT: While that used to be the case, it isn't any longer. Whether it's a distant family member or friend you want to help or a complete stranger, you may be able donate a kidney while you're still alive.

Become a Donor

For more information, visit Donate Life Connecticut or Donate Life America.

There are three easy ways you can register as a donor:

  1. Call Donate Life Connecticut at 203.387.1549.
  2. Visit Donate Life New England to register online if you are a resident of a New England state; or visit Donate Life America to find out about organ donation procedures in your state.
  3. Express your wish to become a donor when you receive or renew your driver's license at the DMV.

Please remember to share your decision with your family so they understand your wish to be an organ donor.

Become a Volunteer

For more information on how you can help raise organ donation awareness, please contact Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center at 203.785.2565 or Donate Life Connecticut at 203.387.1549.

Contact Us

To reach Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center, please call toll-free 866.YALE.TXP (866.925.3897) or submit your question to our medical staff.

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