FAQs

Who can donate?

Anyone can share the Gift of Life!

How do you become a donor?

Register your decision in the Iowa Donor Registry by signing up online from this site, by saying “yes” when receiving your driver license or state ID or by completing and returning an enrollment form. You should also talk to your family about your wishes so they can help honor your decision.

Can you still choose to donate if you are younger than 18 years of age?

Yes, at age 15 ½ you are eligible to receive a temporary driver license and also eligible to join the Iowa Donor Registry. Minors are encouraged to share their wishes with their parents. A parent can revoke the registration at the time of a minor’s death.

Can you donate an organ while you are still alive?

Certain kinds of transplants can be done through the generosity of living donors. Almost 36 percent of all kidney transplants are performed with living donors, who are often related to the person needing the transplant. People can live normal lives with just one healthy kidney. Also, there are new methods of transplanting a part of a living adult’s liver, pancreas, and lung.

What is the maximum age for organ donation?

Anyone of any age can be an organ donor. You are never too old to be considered for donation. The people who are waiting for a transplant would take any organ offered to them rather than become one of the 18 people each day who die while waiting. The oldest donor to date donated a liver at the time of his death at the age of 92.

What can be donated?

Organs that can be donated include: Kidneys, Heart, Liver, Lungs, Pancreas, and Small Intestine.
Tissues that can be donated include: Heart Valves, Corneas, Skin, Bone, Ligaments, Tendons, Nerves, Fascia, Middle Ear Bones and Veins.

Why should you consider becoming an organ and tissue donor?

Advances in medical science have made transplant surgery extremely successful. Transplantation is no longer considered experimental, but rather a desirable treatment option for end-stage organ failure. The major problem is obtaining enough organs for the growing number of Americans needing them. There are thousands of Americans waiting for organs to become available so that they can have a second chance at life. Sadly, there are approximately 500 names added to the waiting list each month. There are not enough organ donors to meet the growing need, resulting in the deaths of 18 men, women, or children each day.

What if members of your family are opposed to donation?

Talking to your family about your desire to be an organ, eye and tissue donor and educating them about the facts of donation and transplantation are important steps to make your family feel comfortable with your decision. You may register your decision with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as an advance directive to be enforced at the time of your death, but you should still inform your family of your decision. For individuals under 18 years of age, a parent can revoke a registration at the time of death.

What if you change your mind about donation?

If you change your mind, you should let your family know and change your decision in the Iowa Donor Registry online or by completing and returning the enrollment form with the appropriate box (add or remove) checked.

Does the family have to pay for the cost of organ/tissue donation?

No. The donor’s family neither pays for, nor receives payment for organ and tissue donation. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs in attempts to save the donor’s life, as well as funeral expenses, remain the responsibility of the donor’s family. All costs related to donation are paid by the organ/tissue recovery agencies or the transplant center.

Will the quality of medical treatments and the efforts to save your life be lessened if emergency or medical personnel know you are willing to be a donor?

No. The organ procurement organization does not become involved until independent physicians involved in the patient’s care have determined that all possible efforts to save the patient’s life have failed and death is declared.

Does donation leave the body disfigured?

No. The recovery of organs and tissues is conducted in an operating room under the direction of qualified surgeons and neither disfigures the body nor changes the way it looks in a casket.

Is it permissible to sell human organs?

No. The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507) prohibits the sale of human organs. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. Among the many reasons for this rule is the concern of Congress that buying and selling organs might lead to inequitable access to donor organs with the wealthy having an unfair advantage.

Can organs and tissues be transplanted between races and genders?

Yes. Gender and race are not factors considered in the matching process.

How are recipients matched to donor organs?

Persons waiting for transplants are listed at the transplant center where they plan to have surgery, and placed on a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant patients in the United States. Under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the national waiting list. UNOS operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and maintains a 24-hour telephone service to aid in matching donor organs with patients on the national waiting list and to coordinate the efforts with transplant centers. When donor organs become available, several factors are taken into consideration in identifying the best-matched recipient(s). These include medical compatibility of the donor and potential recipient(s) on such characteristics as blood type, weight and age. Urgency of need and length of time on the waiting list are also factors in the allocation process. In general, preference is given to recipients from the same geographic area as the donor because timing is a critical element in the organ procurement process.

What is brain death?

Death occurs in two ways: 1) from cessation of cardio-pulmonary (heart-lung) function; and 2) from the cessation of brain function. Brain death occurs when a person has an irreversible, catastrophic brain injury, which causes all brain activity to permanently stop. In such cases, the heart and lungs can continue to function if artificial-support machines are used. However, these functions will also cease when the machines are discontinued. Brain death is an accepted medical, ethical, and legal declaration of death. The standards for determining that someone is brain dead are strict. Tissue donation can occur after either type of death, but organ donation can only occur after brain death.

Can rich or famous people “jump” the waiting list to get a transplant faster than others on the list?

No. Matching organs to recipients is done strictly on medical criteria and has nothing to do with notoriety or wealth. The process for matching a recipient with a donor is dependent upon how sick an individual is and who is the best match for the organ. Occasionally, it may seem that rich or famous individuals receive transplants more often, but that is simply because as a society we pay attention when these people receive transplants and not when people from the general public receive transplants.

Why are people who jeopardized their health with alcohol and drugs still eligible for a transplant?

Chemical dependency is a disease, not unlike other disease processes. People who are chemically dependent and need liver transplants must be clean of all drugs and alcohol for six months and have undergone rehabilitation. Would we deny someone a heart transplant because they ate too many French fries in their life?