Q: Who can be a donor?
A: Anyone who meets the suitability criteria for any organs or tissues, providing that the individual or family members give consent or the person has given first-person authorization through the Donate Life Texas Registry, can be a donor. Suitability criteria vary depending on the organ or tissue and its condition at the time of death.
Q: How do you register to be a donor in the state of Texas?
A: There are three ways to register as an organ and tissue donor in the state of Texas. You can visit the registry’s website: www.DonateLifeTexas.org; at any Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in the state when obtaining your driver’s license or ID; at any Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office in the state when renewing your car’s registration.
Q: When I sign up to be a donor, what does it mean?
A: When you sign the registry, it means you are providing LEGAL authorization be become an organ, eye and tissue donor upon your death. If you are a candidate for donation at the time of your death, your family cannot revoke your decision. According to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), the organ procurement organization (OPO) will not seek affirmation of the organ donation gift from the donor’s family, but will notify the family of the patient’s wishes and decision to be a donor. This is state law.
Q: How do I know that I’m on the registry?
A: Even if there is a red heart in the bottom right-hand corner of your driver’s license or you have a red/white donor sticker on your license that says, “DONOR,” it does not mean you are registered. Go to www.DonateLifeTexas.org to ensure that you are on the registry. If you need assistance with this process, please contact a representative from LifeGift.
Q: Can I revoke my decision? If so, how?
A: Yes, you can revoke your decision to become a registered donor, but this does not prevent your next-of-kin to make a decision to donate on your behalf.
Q: If something should happen to me while I’m traveling and out of the state, what role does my registration play?
A: All matters concerning organ and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each state’s or country’s respective laws. While your donor registration will not serve as a legally-binding authorization for donation outside of the state, it will serve as a clear indication of your wish to donate and will be shared with your family when they are approached by the local organ procurement organization (OPO).
Q: My family members do not believe in donation. How can I make sure that I will be a donor?
A: Sometimes, resistance to donation is simply an unwillingness to contemplate the death of a loved one. The best thing you can do is register your wishes to become an organ and tissue donor at www.DonateLifeTexas.org. This registry serves as your consent to become a donor.
Q: Can an individual or families designate that donated organs or tissues go to a specific individual?
A: The national policy, set by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), is designed whereby the sickest person usually gets a donated organ from a deceased individual. Blood type and size also impact who will receive a particular donated organ. The policy does allow for directed donation, whereby an organ is designated to go to someone – by name. The most common scenario is a directed donation to someone known personally by the donor family. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) and Texas Anatomical Gift Act state that a person, hospital or physician can receive a particular organ. UNOS policy states that donation of an organ(s) cannot discriminate against a person or class of persons on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender or similar characteristic. LifeGift works diligently to see that the system’s policies are carried out so that a fair and equitable system remains for all the transplant candidates awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant. We do not favor one candidate over any other.
Q: If someone has been declared “brain dead,” is it possible for him/her to recover?
A: No. It is impossible to recover from brain death. Brain death should not be confused with coma or persistent vegetative state. Death can occur in one of two ways: first, when the heart and lungs stop functioning; and second, when the brain stops functioning. Brain death occurs when a person has irreversible, catastrophic brain injury, which causes brain activity to stop permanently. Heart and lung functions can only be maintained with the help of a mechanical ventilator.
Q: Does the family incur any costs or receive any payment related to the donation?
A: The donor family is never billed for expenses related to donation. Also, the donor family is not paid for any donations, as this would be a violation of federal and state laws.
Q: What about funeral arrangements?
A: LifeGift will communicate with a donor's family regarding the timing of organ recovery to help meet the needs involving a funeral. (If the death involves the county medical examiner, it may take a bit longer for the body to be released.) Nevertheless, a donor's body is carefully reconstructed so that donation itself does not interfere with an open-casket funeral.
Q: Can an organ donor also be a tissue donor?
A: Yes. If a donor meets the criteria, both organs and tissues can be removed at the same time. As many as 75 people can benefit from one tissue donor.
Q: Can someone who is an organ transplant recipient also be a donor?
A: Yes, someone who has received an organ donation can also be an organ/tissue donor.
Q: How is LifeGift funded?
A: As a non-profit organ procurement organization, LifeGift is allowed to bill transplant centers a set acquisition fee for each organ provided for transplant. This fee covers the medical expenses and transportation costs related to the donation process. There is no charge for the donated organ itself.
The acquisition fee becomes a part of the total amount the transplant center bills to the organ recipient or his/her insurance carrier. These fees are never charged to the families of organ donors. LifeGift also recovers costs related to the tissue donation process from the companies that process the tissues into useable medical devices and products for surgery.
Charges and expenses incurred by recovery agencies are regulated and audited by the U.S. Department of Health’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare generally covers the costs of kidney transplants under the End Stage Renal Disease Program (ESRD). Acquisition fees vary by organ and geographic area.