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Donate Life California Issues Statement on Hand and Face Transplants Being Regulated as Organ Transplants

SAN DIEGO, Calif., Jan. 23, 2014 – The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is developing new policies over the next few months that will likely deem hand and face transplants as “standard” organ transplants. These “reconstructive transplants” are currently considered experimental and rare, but have helped a few dozen Americans who were disabled or disfigured in accidents, by illness or in combat. It’s expected that the new UNOS regulations will include a waiting list for hand and face transplants.

This new development presents a challenge to organ, eye and tissue donor registries across the country, including Donate Life California. Right now, when Californians register to be organ, eye and tissue donors, they do so with an understanding that hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, pancreas and intestines could possibly be donated, along with cornea, skin, bone and other tissue.

While the idea of donation and transplantation has been generally limited to life-saving solid organs and life-healing tissues, this new ability to transplant hands and faces to help those disfigured is truly a life-changing opportunity. In an effort to be clear about the intentions of the millions of Californians who have generously registered as donors, families of potential hand and face donors will be asked to provide a separate authorization to ensure their understanding of these additional gifts.

The Donate Life California Board of Directors has released the following statement:

“California Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) have chosen to directly speak with families and seek authorization for hand, face, and other Vascularized Composite Allograft donations when a match is a possibility because these were not organs or tissue routinely recovered for transplant at the time the 10.5 million registered donors in California made their choice to be donors.”

Donate Life California anticipates reaching 11 million registered organ, eye and tissue donors in the state of California by April, Donate Life Month. With each new sign up, either by checking “YES!” at the DMV or by registering online at, Americans on the transplant waiting list are hopeful they will be given a second chance at life.

About Donate Life California:
The Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry is the nonprofit, state-authorized organ, eye and tissue donor registry, which records the decision to donate in a confidential database that is searched by authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel at the time of an actual donation opportunity. It is administered by Donate Life California and four nonprofit, federally designated organ recovery organizations: Donor Network West , Lifesharing, OneLegacy and Sierra Donor Services. As a state-authorized public service, the registry assures that all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel.

For more information about the Donate Life California Registry, how donation saves and improves lives, and to sign up, please visit or in Spanish at

Fast Facts from Donate Life California:

– One in five on the U.S. organ transplant waiting list lives in California.
– In 2012, more than 1,100 people died in our state waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
– All major religions support or permit organ, eye and tissue donation.
– Anyone can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor regardless of age, ethnicity or medical history.

Please visit Donate Life California’s Stories of Hope web page to read inspiring stories about organ and tissue donors and recipients from around the state.


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