Planning to Be an Organ and Tissue Donor

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Topic Overview

Introduction

Donating one or more of your organs after your death can help save or enhance another person's life. Over 4,500 people in Canada are now waiting for the gift of an organ to become available for an organ transplant. Many more are waiting for a tissue transplant.

How can you be an organ donor?

Plan ahead.

Most people can be considered for organ and tissue donation. If you are interested in donating organs or donating tissues after your death, you can add your name to the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry. Although people of most ages can be an organ and tissue donor, a person must be at least 18 years old to add their name to the registry.

If you've decided to become a donor, be sure to let your family, friends, and doctor know. You can also include your wish to be an organ and tissue donor when you prepare an advance care plan.

What organs can you donate?

You can donate organs or tissues.

Organs to donate include:

Tissues to donate include:

Can you choose what to donate?

Yes, you can choose what organs and tissues you would like to offer for donation. Or you can choose to donate any organs that are needed. You can also choose to donate for transplant, for research, or for educational purposes.

What are the facts about organ donation?

You don't have to be young and in perfect health to be a donor. There are no age limits to putting your name on the donor registry. There is no age limit for organ donation as long as the organs are healthy; however, you have to be younger than 81 years old to donate your tissues. Many diseases do not exclude you from organ and tissue donation. Talk with your doctor or local organ and tissue donation program if you have questions.

If you're on the donor registry, you will get the life-saving care you need when you need it. You won't be denied care in order to obtain your organs and tissues. Provincial laws and emergency medical practices ensure that your life comes first. The medical staff who take care of you are completely separate from the organ donation system.

Donating an organ costs you nothing. It doesn't cost the receiving patient's family, either.

Priority for transplants depends on a number of things.

Transplant centres in Alberta have specific criteria for who is accepted on the waiting list for organ transplants, and who is offered the available organ. These criteria take into account the potential recipients' health, waiting time, blood type, tissue type and medical urgency. Tissue transplantation is also offered based on medical need. The financial status or celebrity of the recipient is not considered.

Having an open-casket funeral is possible for organ donors. The surgery to remove the organs is easy to cover up with clothing or prosthetics.

All major religions allow organ donation. The Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths encourage organ and tissue donation or leave it up to individual choice. Ask your spiritual advisor if you have questions about your religion's views on organ donation.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Liver Foundation
www.liver.ca
Canadian Lung Association
www.lung.ca

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofAugust 14, 2016