You have questions, we have answers. Check out some of the most frequently asked donation questions and contact us if you need more information.
Who can be a donor?
Suitability criteria vary depending on the organ or tissue and its condition at the time of death, but generally anyone who has given first-person authorization through the Donate Life Texas Registry, or whose next-of-kin has provided authorization, can be a donor.
How old is “too old” to donate?
Organs may be donated from newborns to about age 75. There is no age limit for tissue donation. At the time of your death, the appropriate medical professionals will determine whether your organs are usable. In fact, the oldest organ donor on record was 95 years old.
What organs can be donated?
The heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines can be donated. Tissue that can be donated includes the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons. In rare circumstances, vascular composite allografts (VCA) organs such as hands, face and arms may also be donated.
How do you register to be a donor in the state of Texas?
There are three ways to register as an organ and tissue donor in the state of Texas: on the registry’s website: www.DonateLifeTexas.org (www.donevidatexas.org); at any Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in the state when obtaining your driver’s license or ID; or when renewing your vehicle registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Register now with LifeGift.
When I sign up to be a donor, what does it mean?
When you sign the registry, it means you are providing LEGAL authorization to 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, i.e., LifeGift) 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. VCA donation, such as arms, hands, and face, are not covered under this legal authorization. Authorization from the patient’s family after death is required for VCA donation.
How do I know that I’m on the registry?
If you registered with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) when you renewed or obtained your driver’s license, there will be a heart in the bottom right-hand corner of your license. If you register online or when you renew your vehicle registration, your driver’s license will NOT have a heart. It’s important to note that regardless of where you register – at the DPS, online or at the DMV, your information goes to the same database. It is not necessary for you to register in multiple places.
Can I revoke my decision? If so, how?
Yes, you can revoke your decision to become a registered donor, but this does not prevent your next-of-kin from deciding to donate on your behalf.
Please note that the DPS cannot revoke your registry status. Only you can do this by logging onto www.donatelifetexas.org or contacting a Donate Life Texas representative. You may call 1-800-633-6562. If you wish to be removed from the registry, you must submit your request in writing.
My family members do not believe in donation. How can I make sure I will be a donor?
The process leading up to donation can be difficult for many families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Resistance to donation is often associated with the hardship of accepting this new reality. One way to bring clarity and remove the burden of the decision from your family is to register your wishes to become an organ and tissue donor at www.DonateLifeTexas.org. This registry serves as your authorization to become a donor.
Can an individual or family designate that donated organs or tissues go to a specific individual?
The national policy, set by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), is designed whereby the sickest person usually gets the next available donated organ. 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.
If someone has been declared “brain dead,” is it possible for him/her to recover?
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.
Does the family incur any costs or receive any payment related to the donation?
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.
What about funeral arrangements?
LifeGift will communicate with a donor’s family regarding the timing of organ recovery to help meet the needs involving a funeral. A donor’s body is carefully reconstructed so that donation itself does not interfere with an open-casket funeral.
Can an organ donor also be a tissue donor?
Yes. If a donor meets the criteria, both organs and tissues can be recovered at the same time. Eight lives can be saved through organ donation and countless others through tissue donation.
Can someone who is an organ or tissue transplant recipient also be a donor?
Yes, someone who has received an organ or tissue donation can also be an organ/tissue donor.
How is LifeGift funded?
As a nonprofit 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 usable 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.
If I’m in an accident, in the hospital, and a registered organ donor, will my life be saved?
Organ and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death has been legally declared. The medical team treating you is completely separate from the transplant team. The donor registry will be checked only by the organ procurement organization (OPO, i.e., LifeGift) and only after death has been legally declared. Hospitals do not have access to check the registry. The OPO notifies the transplant team following authorization to donation.
Can’t I just donate my organs and tissues by writing it in my will?
By the time your will is read, it will be too late to recover your organs and tissues. The best way to record your wish to donate your organs and tissues is to register at DonateLifeTexas.org (or http://www.donevidatexas.org) and share your decision with your family or caretakers.
Still have questions?
Contact us today for additional information about organ and tissue donation or to learn more about our services.