Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a donor?
Sign up now on-line or complete the registration form and mail it to the Alabama Organ Center. Share your decision with your family.
What organs and tissues can be donated?
Life-saving organs for transplant include the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines. Tissues, such as bone, ligaments and tendons, can be donated and are needed to repair injured or diseased joints and bones. Heart valves, veins and arteries can also be donated.
How many people can be helped through donation?
One organ and tissue donation can save or enhance the lives of nearly 100 people. Remember, transplantation not only benefits the individual recipient, but all of their friends, family and people they influence.
What is the process of organ and tissue donation?
Hospitals are required to call the local organ procurement organization (in Alabama, the Alabama Organ Center) when a death occurs or death is imminent. The Alabama Organ Center (AOC) staff will determine if the patient is a potential organ and/or tissue donor. If the patient is medically suitable, someone from the AOC or specially-trained member of the hospital team, will offer the option of donation to the family. Prior to talking to the family, the AOC will see if the patient indicated their wishes to donate on the Legacy Organ & Tissue Donor Registry. We will share that information with the family. Once the family consents and completes the necessary paperwork, then the AOC will evaluate the donor more thoroughly for medical suitability and coordinate the recovery of organs and tissues. The AOC will also stay with the donor family and provide support as long as the family wishes.
Within about two weeks of the donation the donor family will receive a letter from the AOC expressing our condolences and thanking the family for their willingness to donate. The family will also be told what organs and tissues were recovered and what the AOC knows about the recipients. The donation and transplant process in anonymous so no identifying information about the recipient (s) or donor will be released without consent.
How are recipients matched to the donor?
Individuals waiting for organ transplants are listed by the transplant center in their area. Their names then go into a national computerized waiting list of potential transplant recipients in the United States maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). When an individual or a family consents to donation, UNOS is accessed and made aware of the donor. Information about the donor, i.e. their height, weight, blood type, etc. are entered into UNOS and a list of potential recipients that match with that specific donor is generated. Potential recipients are ranked based on geography, degree of match with the donor, severity of their illness and other factors. The AOC uses that list to identify the recipients for a specific donor.
Why is the waiting list so long?
As medical technology and knowledge improve, transplantation has become more successful. Consequently, more people continue to be added to the national waiting list. As the waiting list has grown, the number of donors has not been able to keep pace.
Can I request that my loved one’s organs go to a friend or family member waiting for a transplant?
Yes, this process is called “directed donation.” If a family requests that their loved one’s organ go to a specific person then the Alabama Organ Center must offer the organ to that potential recipient. If the organ is not a suitable match for the requested recipient, most families then allow the organ to be transplanted into someone else and shared via traditional means.
Can I sell my organs?
The buying and selling of organs and tissue is illegal, as part of The National Transplant Act. The donation system in the United States is based on altruism.
Will my family have a say about the donation?
In some cases – such as the absence of any documentation of a person’s donation decision or if someone is under the age of 18, the family must make the donation decision. In these circumstances, the final decision about organ and tissue donation is made by the family. The Alabama Organ Center encourages all people to discuss their donation decision with their family. We want donation to be a comfort to the family.
How do I discuss my donation decision with my family?
Many people are uncomfortable talking about death. Explain to your family that your decision to donate will offer hope and a second chance at life to others whose lives can be saved or enhanced through transplantation.
I filled out an organ donor card once, is that enough?
No. There is no way of knowing if the card would be with you or if it would be examined in the event of your death.
If you support donation, there are two things you must do:
- Sign up on the Legacy Organ & Tissue Donor Registry. (click here)
- Share your wishes with your family. Most families want to carry out the wishes of their loved one, so it is important to tell them how you feel.
I have indicated my wishes on my license, is that enough?
No. You need to share your wishes with your family. Most families want to carry out the wishes of their loved one, so it is important to tell them how you feel.
I am not 18, can I still sign up on the Registry?
Yes, but you need to have your decision witnessed by your parent or guardian because they will be required to give consent. Regardless of your age, the most important thing you should do if you are in favor of donation is express your wishes to your family.
I do not live in Alabama, can I sign up on the Registry?
Yes, but we also suggest that you contact the organ recovery agency in your state and ask them how to register your wishes to be a donor there too. To find your local organ procurement agency, go to www.unos.org/members/search.asp.
I have a health issue, am older, or cannot donate blood, should I still sign up on the Registry?
Yes. There are very few conditions that disqualify people from donating. In the event of your death, the Alabama Organ Center will evaluate for donation options based on the current criteria. Having a health issue or being older does not necessarily preclude someone from donating. If you want to donate, please indicate your wishes on the Registry and share your decision with your family.
The emergency personnel will not try to save me if I am a donor.
The number one priority is to save your life. Donation can only be considered after all life-saving efforts are exhausted.
Will they make sure I am dead before my organs or tissues are donated?
Yes, absolutely. Before a patient can be a donor they must be pronounced dead by a physician not involved with the transplantation process.
Can donors have normal funeral?
Yes. Donation is a surgical procedure performed by trained medical specialist who take great care and treat the body with respect. An open casket funeral is possible after donation.
In addition, the Alabama Organ Center works closely with the Medical Examiner or coroner and the funeral director to ensure the donor can be released in a timely fashion so funeral arrangements are not delayed.
I think my religion opposes donation.
No major religion opposes donation. Most faiths have stated that organ donation is each individual’s personal decision. And some religions actively encourage their members to consider donation.
Does it cost money to be a donor?
No. There is no financial cost to donate. The family is responsible for costs associated with their loved one until the time of death and for the funeral expenses. The Alabama Organ Center is responsible for all donation-related costs.
Sometimes, donor families become confused when they (or more likely their insurance company) are billed for all costs prior to consent. These are the hospital’s costs for evaluating the patient and treating their condition or injury before death and before consent to donate is given by the donor family.
If there are questions about the bill or the hospital please contact the Alabama Organ Center by calling 1-800-252-3677.
I have heard that rich and powerful people get organs the fastest. Is that true?
No. When an organ becomes available in Alabama, the Alabama Organ Center offers to the patient in the greatest need who most closely matches the donor. Race, income, religion or other demographic factor is not considered. The organ sharing system in the United States is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, www.unos.org.
Introducing Our New Donor Family Quilts Feature.
2015 Celebration of Life Picnic pictures have been uploaded to Shutterfly. An extra special thanks to Steve Gardner, donor dad, who was our photographer
We Are Proud to Introduce our NEW Series of POWERFUL STORIES.
A Donor's Story
August 18, 1988 - November 27, 2009
Click to view Donor Video
A Recipient’s Story
Personal accounts from organ recipients who have been given a second chance at life.
Click to view Recipient Videos
A Story of Spirit
Testimony from donor families and recipients for giving life a second chance through organ donation.
Click to view the Story of Spirit video