Thursday, April 19, 2012

April is Organ Donation Month

Organ, eye and tissue donation is the process of recovering organs, eyes and tissues from a deceased person and transplanting them to others who need them. There are more than 108,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants. Each year, approximately 6,000 people die waiting for an organ transplant that would have given them a second chance at life. Additionally, each year hundreds of thousands of people benefit from donated tissue that is used for life-saving and reconstructive purposes, and corneas that restore sight.

April is National Donate Life Month, and a good time to consider becoming an organ donor.

The most commonly transplanted organs are the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. Tissue transplants are also possible: skin is used as a temporary dressing for burns; bone is used in orthopedic surgery to facilitate healing of fractures; heart valves are used to replace defective valves; tendons are used to repair torn ligaments on knees or other joints; veins are used in cardiac bypass surgery; and corneas can restore sight to the blind. Many tissues that cannot be used for transplant can be recovered and used in research studies to advance medical science.

By becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor through, one person can donate a heart, two parts of a liver, two kidneys, two lungs, intestine and a pancreas. One tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people.

Donation costs nothing for the donor or the donor’s family; all charges related to the donation process are billed to the organ, eye or tissue recovery agency. During the recovery process, conducted under standard, sterile conditions in an operating room, the body is fully reconstructed once organs and tissues are removed, so an open casket funeral is possible if the family wishes.

The Code of Virginia states that family permission is not required when you have documented your decision to donate. While it is still helpful for family members to know what you want, their permission will be sought only if your decision is not registered, either through the DMV, or online at Those under the age of 18 can indicate their wishes to donate, but parents and guardians must make that decision.

When you register your choice to be a donor at the DMV, it puts the heart on your driver’s license and puts your general donation decision in the Donate Life Virginia Registry. If you register your decision at, you may place specific instructions about which organs or tissue may be used and for what purposes.

Anyone can be considered for donation, regardless of any past medical history or age. At the time of death, donation program professionals will review your medical and behavioral history to determine if you are a candidate for donation. To date, the oldest donor was 101 years old.

Just check “yes” at the DMV when you renew your driver’s license or identification card, then go to to clarify your wishes.

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