Organ Donation FAQs
What is the need for organ and tissue donation?
The need is great. Nearly 106,000 individuals nationwide are waiting for organs. In Hawaii, more than 340 seriously-ill people of all ethnic groups are waiting for a heart, liver, kidney, or pancreas transplant. Hundreds of others need cornea or bone transplants so they can live healthier lives. Sadly, there are not enough donations to meet the need. Nationwide, approximately 18 people die every day while on the organ transplant waitlist.
Who can be an organ donor?
Organ donors range in age from newborn to seniors. Most organ donors are victims of fatal head injuries. Causes include automobile accidents, drowning, smoke inhalation, gun shot wounds and brain bleeds from a stroke or sudden trauma to the head. Most organ donors are individuals who have been declared “brain dead” by a physician.
Who can be a tissue donor?
Tissue donors can range in age from 5 yrs to seniors. The key difference between organ and tissue donors is the donor’s heart is no longer beating during any portion of the recovery. Simply put, all the donor’s bodily functions have ceased due to “cardiac death.”
How can I become a donor?
There are three ways one can become a registered organ and tissue donor:
1. The Legacy of Life Hawai’i online registry (click to register online)
2. When applying for or renewing a drivers license
3. When applying for or renewing a Hawaii State ID
What can I donate and how can people benefit?
In Hawaii, you may donate your heart, pancreas, liver, lungs, and kidneys for life-saving organ transplants. You can also donate tissue such as corneas, bone, tendons, and skin for life-enhancing surgical procedures to replace damaged or diseased tissues. An example of such a procedure would be a cornea transplant to restore sight.
What is the Legacy of Life Hawai‘i Registry online registry?
The Legacy of Life Hawai‘i Registry is a secure online registry of individuals age 18 years and older who have made the decision to be a donor. It allows organ and tissue donation professionals to determine at the time of death if you had registered to be a donor so that your wish to donate could be fulfilled.
Is registering through Legacy of Life Hawaii’s online registry similar to signing up to be an organ and tissue donor on my driver’s license?
Yes. Registering through our online enrollment form is simply one more way to make your donation wishes known. Many donors may even wish to register through both our online donor registry and the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office. However, if you register in both places and change your mind about donation, be sure to remove yourself from both donor registries as well.
Can I make specific decisions about what organs and tissues I wish to donate?
Yes. On the enrollment form there will be an opportunity to designate specific organs or tissues you do not wish to donate.
Will my decision to donate be kept private?
Personal information in the donor registry is only accessible to designated donation professionals. The information of the donor registry cannot be shared with or sold to companies or government agencies. Should you die in a manner suitable for donation, your closest next of kin will be informed of your donation decision and about the donation process to follow.
Will I receive a donor card?
Federal regulations require all hospital deaths to be reported to the local organ procurement organization. This makes it possible for the Legacy of Life Hawai‘i Donor Registry to be checked each and every time a death is referred. No donor card is necessary. We recommend that everyone who registers as a donor talk to their family about their decision to donate.
Can my family override my decision to donate?
Once you sign up with the Legacy of Life Hawaii registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ and tissue recovery. Should you be in the position to donate, your next of kin will be informed of your registration, but will not have the power to override your decision. It is important to let your next of kin know your wishes so that they may be prepared to provide the health care team information about your medical history.
Will the quality of my hospital treatment and efforts to save my life be lessened if I’m declared a donor?
Absolutely not! Everything medically possible will be done to save your life before donation is even considered.
How will my condition be explained to my family at the time of organ donation?
Your physician will use the term “brain dead.” Brain death is a legal definition of death. “Brain dead” means that, as a result of a sudden accident or severe injury to the brain, the body’s blood supply to the brain is blocked, and the brain dies. This causes all organs to stop working within a few days. This condition cannot be changed. Brain death is permanent and irreversible. There is no chance of recovery from brain death.
How is brain death determined?
A physician will conduct required medical tests to make a diagnosis of brain death. These tests are based on sound and accepted medical guidelines. These tests confirm that there are no brain reflexes and there is no blood flow to the brain or brain activity. These tests also confirm that the patient is unable to breathe on their own. In most cases, these tests are performed twice to ensure accurate results.
What happens to me after I am declared “brain dead”?
Once the diagnosis of brain death is made, you are pronounced legally dead. This is the time that will appear on your death certificate. If you are a candidate for organ and/or tissue donation, a health care professional will inform your family of your registry status. Your family may be asked to provide information regarding your medical history. Please know that we are sensitive to your family’s overwhelming feelings of sadness, shock and grief at the time of loss. As such, we take great care to treat your family with compassion and respect.
Does donation cost my family anything?
No. Donation is considered a gift. Your family and the hospital are not responsible for donation expenses. All costs are absorbed by Legacy of Life Hawai’i. Also, your family will not receive any payment. Your family is responsible for the costs of medical treatment prior to your death and for funeral expenses, just as they would be if donation did not take place.
Will my body’s appearance be changed after donation?
Organ, eye and bone donation is a careful surgical procedure that should not change the physical appearance of the body. Donation should not interfere with funeral plans, including an open casket service.
What happens after my organs and tissues are recovered?
After surgery your body will be prepared and the funeral home contacted as with any person who dies in the hospital.
Who will receive my organs and tissues?
Recipients are chosen by how sick they are, how long they have been waiting and how well they match with the donor organ with regard to tissue type, size and blood type. The social or financial position of the recipient are not factors in determining who is transplanted.
Will the recipients of my organs and tissues be told who I am?
Organ donation is an anonymous gift. Names are not exchanged between the recipient and your family. However, general information will be shared with your family including the sex and age of the recipient and how the individual is doing.
Does my religion support organ and tissue donation?
Yes. All major religions support donation and view donation as an act of human kindness in keeping with their religious teachings. People are often unaware of the attitudes of their faith towards donation. The best advice is to discuss your concerns and questions about organ and tissue donation with your clergy or spiritual advisor.