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Organ donation

One organ donor can save up to 8 lives.
In 2020, LifeGift’s team helped save 1,156 lives through organ and tissue donation. However, every 10 minutes, a new person is added to the national organ transplant waiting list and in Texas alone there are currently close to 10,000 people waiting for a live-saving transplant.

Donation is a selfless act of giving and a way to help others after you pass away.

Organs that can be donated

  • Icon: liver
    Liver
  • Icon: Heart
    Heart
  • Icon: lungs
    Lungs (2)
  • Icon: Kidneys
    Kidneys (2)
  • Icon: Pancreas
    Pancreas
  • Icon: Intestines
    Intestines

The Process

How organ donation works

There are two ways someone can become a donor – living donation and deceased donation. As one of three designated OPOs serving Texas, LifeGift manages deceased donation. The process is time-sensitive and complex, with various partners helping along the way to ensure every opportunity to save lives.

The key steps in the deceased donation process include:

  1. Evaluation

    Because the gift of donation is rare and precious, every death that occurs in a hospital is referred to the local OPO to assess for donation opportunities based on specific medical criteria. Donation is only an option after death has been declared.

  2. Authorization

    Authorization for donation is provided in one of two ways. If you documented your decision to be a donor during your lifetime, your decision will be honored as your authorization. If you did not make a lifetime decision about donation, your family will be asked to make a decision on your behalf. A LifeGift Family Care Specialist will discuss the process with your loved ones and answer any questions they may have.

  3. Review medical and social history

    A Family Care Specialist will complete paperwork with your next-of-kin, including a questionnaire about your medical and social history to help ensure the safety of donated organs.

  4. Matching organs to potential recipients

    A LifeGift Clinical Donation Specialist will use medical information and diagnostic tests to match donated organs with waiting recipients. Organ matches are generated from entered medical data in a national registry based on things like severity of illness, length of time waiting, geography, size and blood type.

  5. Designating matched organs

    Based on national guidelines, organs are offered to the recipient’s transplant center in order of priority.

  6. Organ recovery

    Once LifeGift has determined which organs are suitable for recovery and they have been matched to a recipient, the transplant teams will be scheduled to perform the recovery procedure.

  7. Follow-up with family

    After the transplantation procedure has been completed, your family will receive a letter from LifeGift detailing where your organs and tissues have been sent and some basic information about the recipient(s). Identifying information about donors and recipients is confidential, however your family could request updates about your recipients any time by contacting LifeGift. Donor families have the right to select if they want to receive letters from recipients. Many who do allow this to happen have shared the healing power of this experience.

Organ donation process FAQs

What is brain death and how is it determined?

Brain death occurs when all activity in the brain and brain stem stops, often as a result of trauma or illness. Since our bodies need both our brain and our heart to function, the cessation of either the brain or heart leads to death. In the absence of brain function, a mechanical breathing machine or respirator can be used to keep the other organs functioning. The use of a respirator in this way preserves organ function after death so that they can stay healthy until they are able to be recovered and transplanted.

A physician declares brain death based on tests that determine the absence of electrical activity in the brain, a cessation of blood flow to the brain and an absence of brain function.

If the tests done in the ICU show brain activity and blood flowing through the brain, the patient is in a coma. But if tests show no brain activity or blood supply, the brain has been destroyed and will never work again. If the tests show the brain is no longer alive, the doctor approaches the family and explains that the patient has died. See brain death information below.

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 a 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 an 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.

What is donation after circulatory determination of death (DCD)?

Donation after Circulatory Determination of Death (DCD) is an opportunity for families of patients who do not meet the complete criteria for brain death to donate organs. It is offered to families once the medical team and the patient’s family have established that the patient will not have meaningful recovery and life support measures will be discontinued. If the family agrees, the patient is moved to an operating room where the patient’s physician withdraws ventilation support. In some situations, support may be withdrawn in the intensive care unit. After the patient’s heart stops beating, the physician declares death. The transplant team waits no less than 5 minutes following pulselessness before starting organ recovery. The lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys often can be recovered.

Have more questions? Check out our full donation FAQ page for more information.

View donation FAQs

Have more questions? Check out our full donation FAQ page for more information.

Transplant Centers

The role of hospital and transplant centers

LifeGift partners with more than 200 hospitals to ensure that the donation decisions of Texans are honored and potential donor families have the opportunity for a thoughtful discussion about donation. Our partnership and collaboration are vital to best serve families and save lives. Hospital support of organ and tissue donation is an extension of the care and comfort they provide to their communities each day.