FAQs

  • Does organ, eye and tissue donation really help people?

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    • Organ transplants are life-saving operations. People on the transplant waiting list are suffering organ failure from conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease. Without the help of a generous gift of live from an organ donor they will die.
    • Tissue transplants are life-saving and/or life-enhancing operations. They save the lives of recovering burn victims, help blind people to see and allow people to walk again.
    • Post-transplant organ, eye and tissue recipients can live healthy, active lives that weren’t possible when they were ill. Most recipients make such an amazing recovery, you would not know that they received a transplant unless they told you.
  • Who can be a registered organ, eye and tissue donor?

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    • Anyone can be considered for organ, eye and tissue donation.
    • Trained and experienced medical professionals make decisions about medical suitability of organs at the time of death.
    • Everyone, regardless of age or medical history, is encouraged to sign up as a donor. You must be at least 13 years of age to register online, but anyone of any age can check “YES!” at the DMV when applying for or renewing their driver license or ID. Families of registered donors under the age of 18 still must consent to donation before it can be carried out.
  • How do I become a registered organ, eye, and tissue donor?

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    • Simply check “’YES!’ I want to be an organ and tissue donor!” when you renew or apply for your driver license or ID card through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); OR
    • Anyone age 13 or older can sign up online anytime or learn more about organ and tissue donation by visiting www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org. Anyone of any age can check “YES!” at the DMV when applying for or renewing their driver license or ID. Families of registered donors under the age of 18 still must consent to donation before it can be carried out.
  • Can I set limitations on the organs, eyes and tissues I would like to donate?

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    • Saying  “YES!” to donation on your driver license indicates your consent for all organs, eyes and tissues for transplant and research.
    • If you would like to specify which organs you would like to donate, visit www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org.
  • What if I change my mind?

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  • Where does organ, eye and tissue donation happen?

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    • Donation occurs at a medical facility after death is declared and consent for donation is obtained from either the donor registry or the deceased’s family.
    • The organ procurement organizations (OPOs) work with all hospitals throughout California.
  • Does the donor’s family incur the cost of donation?

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    • There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ, eye and tissue donation.
    • All costs related to donation are paid by the organ procurement organization (OPO).
    • By law, expenses related to saving the individual’s life and funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the donor’s family.
  • What if an individual registered to be a donor, but their family is opposed to donation?

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    • If an individual 18 years or older has recorded his/her personal decision, it must be honored if medically possible.
    • State and federal laws support the donor’s right to make the decision and have it carried out.
    • Information about the individual’s decision will be communicated to the family members before donation occurs. They will be emotionally supported throughout the donation process.
    • Most families are happy to know their loved one had made a decision and want to follow through on their final life-giving wishes.
    • Families of registered donors under the age of 18 still must consent to donation before it can be carried out.
  • Can the donor family meet the recipient(s)?

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    • Organ, eye and tissue donation is a confidential process. No pressure is placed on donor families or transplant recipients to meet or make contact with one another.
    • Shortly after donation, the donor family and recipient(s) will receive general information about one another. No identifying details are shared unless consent has been given by both parties. Organ recovery organizations and the transplant centers can arrange contact if the desire is mutual.
  • How is the organ allocation process determined?

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    • If someone needs an organ transplant, his or her name is added to the National Transplant Waiting List. The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the organization in charge of the waiting list.
    • UNOS works with organ procurement organizations (OPOs) to match available organs to recipients in need.
    • Through extensive testing, information about blood type and genetic make-up for each transplantable organ. This information is utilized to develop a list of suitable recipients prioritized by considering factors such as medical urgency, tissue type, length of time on the waiting list, blood type, and body size.
    • Geographic location is also considered in placement. Organs are offered in accordance to proximity to the donor.
    • There is no discrimination due to age, sex, ethnicity, occupation, or social and/or financial status when determining who receives an organ.
  • Will doctors still work hard to save a patient who is a registered donor?

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    • It is only after every attempt has been made to save a patient’s life and death has been declared that the donation process begins.
    • The doctors who work to save your life are not the same doctors involved in the recovery and transplantation of your donated organs.
  • Will funeral arrangements be possible after donation?

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    • Funeral arrangements, including an open casket, will not be affected by the decision to donate. Additionally, donation does not delay funeral services.
  • Can organs, eyes and tissues be given to different ethnic groups or individuals of the opposite sex?

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    • Gender does not influence the allocation of donated organs, eyes or tissues.
    • Although it is possible for a candidate to match a donor from another ethnic group, often transplant success rates increase (due to tissue compatibility) when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background.
    • In California, ethnic minorities make up more than 70 percent of the people on the National Transplant Waiting List.
  • Does Donate Life California accept whole body donations?

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    Donate Life California focuses on the life-saving organs and life-enhancing tissues and does not have a whole body donation program.

  • Does Donate Life California offer to cremate the body after donation?

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    • Expenses related to saving the individual’s life and funeral expenses, including cremation, remain the responsibility of the donor’s family.
  • Am I too old (or too young) to donate?

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    • There is no age limit for organ and tissue donation. Anyone age 13 or older can register online at anytime, although the final decision is that of the legal guardian(s) until age 18.  Anyone of any age can check “YES!” at the DMV when applying for or renewing their driver license or ID. Conversely, no one should rule themselves out because they are “too old”. There has been a 93-year-old kidney donor and a 99-year-old cornea donor!
  • What is your relationship with the DMV?

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    • The DMV is our partner in signing up Californians to become registered organ, eye and tissue donors. With the DMV’s support, we have reached more than 10 million registered donors in California! The DMV does not have access to our secure and confidential database, and they help our mission solely by assisting individuals in registering to become organ, eye and tissue donors.
  • My family/friend is in need of an organ can I specify that he or she receives it?

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    • “Directed donation” of an organ to a specific individual is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation. Directed donation is best supported by an Advance Health Care Directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.
  • What happens if I die in another state?

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    • Hospitals in every state are federally required to alert their area Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). Therefore, if one dies in another state, that state’s OPO will contact the donor registry of the person’s home state.
  • What is "living donation"?

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    • Many adults make a decision to save a life through organ donation during their lives. Organs that can be transplanted by living donors include:
      • One kidney – you are born with two kidneys but can live a safe and healthy life with only one kidney.
      • A liver section – a portion of a healthy liver can be donated from a living donor. Both the donor and the recipient’s liver sections re-grow to normal size within six weeks.
  • Can LGBT individuals become organ and tissue donors?

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    • LGBT persons can be organ, eye and tissue donors and can also become living organ donors. Men who have sex with men within the last five years are able to be organ donors. However, the gift of tissue is restricted to corneas for research. At this time, HIV also precludes donation, but due to the passage of the HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act in November 2013, which allowed for research into the impact of organ donation from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients, OPTN has formed a work group to consider new policies that would allow recovery of organs from HIV-positive donors. For more information, click here.
  • I am HIV-positive. What is the HOPE Act and what does it do for people who are HIV-positive and wish to be organ, eye and tissue donors?

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    • At this time, HIV-positive donors are precluded from donating organs, cornea and tissue. But, The HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in November 2013, opens the door for research into the impact of donation from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. Right now, an OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) work group is working to develop and publish criteria for the conduct of that research.
    • While that means those who are HIV-positive cannot be donors at this time, we still encourage anyone who is HIV-positive to register to be a donor, or remain on the Registry, as the policy could change at any time. For more information about the HOPE Act, click here.
  • Can access to transplantation be denied because of immigration status?

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    • Access to transplantation is not denied to anyone in the U.S. because of their immigration status – this applies to people of all ethnic groups and races. There is no law in the U.S. that denies transplant access to undocumented immigrants.