FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ - Donor Registration

What is the Donor Registry?

How can I join the Donor Registry?

What is the difference between a donor code on my driver's license and signing up online or with a paper form?

Who may sign up on the Donor Registry?

Is my information in the Donor Registry secure?


What if I want to edit or delete my registration?

What role does my family play, when it comes to my status as a donor?

What if members of my family are opposed to donation?

What if I do not wish to be a deceased donor?

FAQ - Donation & Transplantation

Will my medical care be affected if people know I am a donor?



Is there anyone who is not allowed to donate?

What organs and tissues can I donate?



Do I have to die to save lives through donation?


How does the donation process work?



Is it true that rich and famous people are more likely to get organ, eye and tissue transplants?



How much will organ, eye and tissue donation cost my family?



Can I be denied a transplant if I am an undocumented citizen?

Does my religion support donation?



Will organ, eye or tissue donation delay or change funeral plans?



Can I sell my organs, eyes or tissues?


Can I be an organ, eye and tissue donor and also donate my body to science?

Does my registration grant consent for whole body donation?

Is there an age limitation of whose organs can be donated?

What is the difference between organ and tissue donation?

What is brain death, and can you recover from it?

What are the benefits of tissue transplantation?

I think I may need an organ transplant. How do I get added to the list?

Is my residency status a factor if I would like to sign up to be an organ eye and tissue donor?

How long do people stay on the waiting list?

If I don’t have adequate health insurance, can I still be placed on the waiting list?

Why is the number of minority patients on the waiting list disproportionately large?

Where do organ transplants take place?

I'd like to be an anonymous living kidney donor. How do I get started?

How do I find out if I can be a living donor?

Do I have to have health insurance to be a living kidney donor?

Who pays for living kidney surgery?

Can organs from animals be used in humans?

Why do living donations?

What are the life-long considerations when I live with only one kidney?

What is the Donor Registry?

The Donor Registry is a secure and confidential state-wide database listing everyone who has indicated their decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. The donor database is accessible only to authorized employees of organ, eye and tissue procurement agencies. It is not accessible to hospital personnel.

How can I join the Donor Registry?

Each state has a single Donor Registry. There are 3 ways to join the Donor Registry in Oregon or Washington: 1) Code your driver's license/permit/ID card at DMV; 2) Online at www.donatelifenw.org; 3) Request a paper form from Donate Life Northwest.

What is the difference between a donor code on my driver's license and signing up online or with a paper form?

Registering as a donor at DMV indicates that upon your death, you wish to donate any/all organs or tissues deemed viable for the specific purpose of life-saving organ or life-enhancing tissue transplants. A "D" or heart will appear on your driver's license, permit or ID, but this is for your own benefit: your consent will be documented in the online Oregon Donor Registry maintained by Donate Life Northwest. Individuals who directly register as donors online or with a paper form have the additional opportunity to indicate any specific organs or tissues which you do *not* want to donate. The "D" or heart will not appear on their license, but nonetheless their consent will be documented in the confidential Donor Registry.

Who may sign up on the Donor Registry?

In Oregon and Washington, everyone at least 13 years old can register as an organ and tissue donor - online at www.donatelifenw.org or with a paper form from Donate Life Northwest. Individuals at least 15 years old can put a donor code on their driver’s license/permit/ID. Minors do not need parental permission to register. The ability to actually become an organ or tissue donor is determined on a case-by-case basis at the time of death - don't rule yourself out from registering due to your age or medical history!

Is my information in the Donor Registry secure?


Yes. All personal information is kept confidential. The law prohibits donor registry information from being sold or shared with any company or government agency. Your information is stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ, eye and tissue recovery personnel. It is not accessible to hospital personnel.

What if I want to edit or delete my registration?

Making changes to your registration depends on how you initially registered as a donor. If you signed up through the DMV by coding your license/permit/ID card, then all changes must be made through DMV; this will entail purchasing a new license. Those who registered with a paper form must call Donate Life Northwest at 503-494-7888 to make changes. Those who registered online would have received an email upon registration, with a password and instructions on how to access the Registry in order to alter your personal information, donation preferences, or to remove your name from the Donor Registry. If you have lost this email, please call Donate Life Northwest so that staff can make changes for you.

What role does my family play, when it comes to my status as a donor?

While your decision to be a registered organ, eye and tissue donor is legally binding in Oregon or Washington if you are 18 years or older, it is critical that you inform your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes. Prior to any potential organ, eye or tissue donation, the Registry is checked and the deceased individual's family or next-of-kin is contacted regarding their decision (or lack thereof) to donate. Talking to your family about donation ensures that they can advocate for your final wishes.

What if members of my family are opposed to donation?

If you are 18 or older, you may join the Oregon or Washington Donor Registry as an advanced directive. You should still inform your family of your decision. Upon your death, the recovery organization will inform them of your decision to be a donor and will involve them in the donation process, but will not ask them for authorization. If you are under 18 years of age, parental authorization is needed. Your decision may be revoked by a parent upon a minor's death. This is why it is critical that families discuss their family about their end-of-life wishes.

What if I do not wish to be a deceased donor?

If you do not wish to be considered a potential organ, eye or tissue donor upon death, discuss this decision with your next of kin. Recovery coordinators will turn to them to discern your wishes. You may also choose to put your wishes in writing, sign the document, and ensure that your next of kin knows where this document is in the event of your death, so that they have the peace of mind of knowing what your wishes are. Donor Registries in the United States record only the wishes of those who DO wish to be donors, whether this is a universal or limited designation. If you do not wish to be a donor in Oregon or Washington, do not register!

Will my medical care be affected if people know I am a donor?



Never! Your health care providers will make all efforts to save your life. An entirely separate team of health care professionals handle the donation process. Furthermore, organ, eye and tissue recovery happens only after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and death has been legally declared.

Is there anyone who is not allowed to donate?

Do not rule yourself out due to age or health! People of all ages and medical histories – even those with diabetes, cancer, or hepatitis C – should consider themselves potential organ donors. The circumstances of death and your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs, eyes and tissue can be donated. Each case is evaluated individually.

What organs and tissues can I donate?



It is first important to understand that organ donation is extremely rare: nationally less than 1% of all individuals die in the medical environment which supports organ donation. That said, eight organs can potentially be donated: Heart * Liver * Small Intestine * Kidneys (2) * Lungs (2) * Pancreas. In contrast, the option of tissue and cornea donation is available to most individuals. A single tissue donor can save and enhance over 50 lives through the donation of: Bone * Eyes/Corneas * Skin * Heart Valves & Associated Cardiovascular Tissue * Connective Tissues

Do I have to die to save lives through donation?


No. There are many ways to donate and save lives through living donation. (http://www.donatelifenw.org/donation/living )

How does the donation process work?



Donors are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure their organs and tissues are medically suitable for transplant. After this evaluation, organs and tissues receive further testing before they are approved for transplantation. Get more information by visiting the donation (http://www.donatelifenw.org/donation ) and transplantation (http://www.donatelifenw.org/transplantation) pages.

Is it true that rich and famous people are more likely to get organ, eye and tissue transplants?



No. Everyone on the national transplant waiting list (http://www.unos.org/ )is registered with a national computer network that matches donor organs with potential recipients. Criteria such as blood and tissue type, body size, geographic location and medical urgency determine recipients. No one can advance their position on the waiting list based on income, social position or race.

How much will organ, eye and tissue donation cost my family?



It costs nothing to donate, and no costs are passed on to a donor’s family or estate.

Can I be denied a transplant if I am an undocumented citizen?

Access to transplantation is not denied to anyone in the U.S. because of their immigration status – this applies to people of all ethnic groups and races. Organ transplantation is available to everyone who has the means to cover the expense involved (public/personal/private insurance), has the support of a qualified caregiver to assist with post-transplant recovery and medicine compliance, and a transplant surgeon who has qualified the candidate as a transplant recipient and has placed this individual on the waiting list. Undocumented citizens are not singled out; there are thousands of people who are legal residents who do not qualify for transplantation because they do not meet the qualifications mentioned above.

Does my religion support donation?



All major religions practiced in the U.S. support donation as a charitable act. Call Donate Life Northwest if you have more specific questions about your religion.

Will organ, eye or tissue donation delay or change funeral plans?



Organ, cornea and tissue donation doesn't even interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor's body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor's back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference. Donation typically causes no delay or change in funeral arrangements.

Can I sell my organs, eyes or tissues?


According to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs cannot be sold or bought in the United States. Those who would violate this federal law risk severe penalties, including imprisonment. Moreover, selling organs to a 'black market' is impossible, because all organs must be carefully examined by a health care professional before their compatibility with a recipient can be determined. All transplant hospitals and organ procurement organizations are bound by federal law and regulation, which explicitly prohibits any exchange of "valuable consideration" for transplantation as outlined in the National Organ Transplant Act. Organs are distributed in conformance with laws created and overseen by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which ensures an ethical, equitable system of distribution.

Can I be an organ, eye and tissue donor and also donate my body to science?

If you are an organ, eye and tissue donor, you will not be accepted for whole body donation. Whole body donation (http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/bodydonation/about.cfm ) should be arranged in advance by completing additional forms through the Oregon Health and Sciences University Whole Body Donation Program. This is a totally separate program from Donate Life Northwest.

Does my registration grant consent for whole body donation?

A. Signing up on the donor registry does not grant permission for your body to be donated to medical schools. Organ, eye and tissue donation for transplant or research is not the same as willed body donation. If you are interested in whole body donation, please visit the OHSU Body Donation Program’s website at http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/bodydonation.

Is there an age limitation of whose organs can be donated?

There are no age limitations on who can donate. Both newborns and senior citizens have been donors. The circumstances of death and your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs, eyes and tissue can be donated.

What is the difference between organ and tissue donation?

Most of the time, organ donation can only be done on a donor who has been declared brain dead, but whose other organs are kept functioning by sophisticated hospital machinery. Because brain death is not a common occurrence, viable organ donors are rare. Tissue donation can occur even after the heart has ceased beating. Most deaths produce potential tissue donors (depending on the medical history). Organ donors can also be tissue donors.

What is brain death, and can you recover from it?

Most donated organs are transplanted from people who have died as a result of brain death. The brain needs oxygen to keep working. When the brain is injured, it swells. This swelling can prevent blood from entering the brain. When blood – which carries oxygen to the brain – stops flowing, the brain dies. This condition is known as brain death. A person who is brain dead has no awareness, cannot think, feel, move, or breathe. They no longer feel pain or suffering. Brain death is a permanent condition and cannot be reversed. Without a functioning brain, the rest of the person’s organs can be kept working for a short time using a mechanical support system. Medical professionals perform a numbers of tests at separate times before a person is pronounced brain dead. If these tests prove that brain death has occurred, the body is kept on mechanical support to maintain the organs until it is determine whether the person will be a donor. You can never recover from brain death, which the public often confuses with brain damage. Brain damage means there are some portions of the brain still functioning and people can continue to live.

What are the benefits of tissue transplantation?

Tissue transplants enhance the quality of life of the recipient, except for the skin which saves more lives than all the tissues and organs combined. Some ways tissue is used to help recipients: • skin grafts for burn victims • fusing of spinal defects to reduce pain • replacement of benign cystic bone defects to improve mobility • replacement of cancerous bone tumors to prevent amputation • straightening and strengthening of spines distorted by scoliosis • replacement of hipbones to restore mobility • reconstruction of jaw and other bones to restore normal facial appearance • restoration of sight and prevention of blindness • heart bypass surgery through use of saphenous veins • restoration of blood flow through the use of saphenous veins • replacement of defective heart valves • repair damaged ligaments, cartilage and tendons for improved mobility

I think I may need an organ transplant. How do I get added to the list?

The process of joining the UNOS National Organ Transplant Waiting List begins with your physician referring you to a transplant center for evaluation. A committee of doctors, transplant surgeons, and other hospital staff makes the decision as to whether a patient is a suitable candidate, and whether or not to be placed on the waiting list for an organ transplant. This decision is based on the status of the patient’s health, his or her medical and social history, and the expectation of their stability after the transplant takes place. If you have additional questions about your status on the list, you should ask the team at your transplant hospital.

Is my residency status a factor if I would like to sign up to be an organ eye and tissue donor?

No. Even if you are undocumented, you may sign up by using our online registry or by filling out a paper form. Your information is saved to the Oregon Donor Registry, which is not connected to any government agencies. However, it is very important to talk to your family and friends about your donation wishes.

How long do people stay on the waiting list?

Those on the national waiting list may wait days, months, or even years. Many medical and logistical criteria impact the time an individual spends on the waiting list, including: • Blood type and size of organ needed • Distance between donor and recipient • Medical urgency • Immune-system matching UNOS provides detailed statistics on the waiting list.

If I don’t have adequate health insurance, can I still be placed on the waiting list?

Given the scarcity of donor organs, transplant surgeons are concerned about transplanting patients who do not have the financial resources to pay for the transplant procedure and follow-up care needed to maintain the organ. In some cases, you might not be placed on the waiting list. However, transplant centers have social workers and financial counselors who work with people being evaluated for a transplant to help them find the necessary financial resources.

Why is the number of minority patients on the waiting list disproportionately large?

Minorities are disproportionately represented on the waiting list because certain minority groups are more likely to suffer from diseases that may result in organ failure and require a life-saving organ transplant. For example, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to suffer from end-stage renal disease than Caucasians. Successful transplantation often is enhanced by the matching of organs between members of the same ethnic and racial group. For example, any patient is less likely to reject a kidney if it is donated by an individual who is genetically similar. Generally, people are genetically more similar to people of their own ethnicity or race than to people of other races. Therefore, a shortage of organs donated by minorities can contribute to death and longer waiting periods for transplants for minorities.

Where do organ transplants take place?

Organ transplants occur only in hospitals which specialize in these operations. The Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank partners with four such transplant centers located in Portland, Oregon, each with their own specialty. • Oregon Health & Science University: Heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas • Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center: Kidney • Providence Portland Medical Center: Heart • Portland VA Medical Center: Liver, kidneys

I'd like to be an anonymous living kidney donor. How do I get started?

If you are interested in anonymously donating a kidney to someone in need: In Oregon and SW Washington, contact the Living Donor Program by email (baynesg@ohsu.edu) or by phone (503-494-7856) to ask any questions and express your interest in kidney donation. You will need to complete a health screening questionnaire, which will be reviewed to ensure that you meet the good health criteria. If you are determined to be a potential candidate, you will meet with a donor coordinator to discuss the process of donation in more detail and to answer any questions you may have. If at this point you have made the decision to donate a kidney, you will be referred to a donor coordinator at an area transplant center for an extensive health and psychological evaluation*. Once tests are completed, you will be matched with a recipient - anonymously. Your donor surgery and the recipient's transplant surgery will be scheduled at a time appropriate to both you and the recipient. *A medical history, physical examination, and a number of blood and urine tests are performed to determine health status. Other tests including x-rays, heart stress test, EKG and abdominal CT scan may be performed as well. The goal of the evaluation is to ensure that the living donor is physically fit and has no health issues. Counseling is done to ensure that each potential donor understands the surgery, the risks involved and the recovery time.

How do I find out if I can be a living donor?

Most healthy adults can potentially donate a kidney. In order to determine eligibility an individual will go through an extensive health evaluation and counseling. The first step is to complete a health screening questionnaire and return it to the Living Donor Program (in Oregon and SW Washington). Generally, living donors must be physically fit and in good health, between the ages of 25 and 65, and free of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney, lung and heart disease.

Do I have to have health insurance to be a living kidney donor?

It is important for any donor to have health insurance of the financial ability to see a primary care medical provider on a regular basis. While the transplant center will provide a follow-up appointment for all donors, it is the responsibility of the donor to manager his/her ongoing health.

Who pays for living kidney surgery?

The recipient's insurance of Medicare will pay for all medical costs for the donor's medical evaluation, surgery, hospitalization, doctor's fees and follow-up costs. However, all other costs like transportation, child care and lost wages are not reimbursed. No monetary payment will be provided to donors or their family members. Potential living donors should contact their employers to see if paid leave or short-term disability insurance would cover lost wages for this absence.

Can organs from animals be used in humans?

No, not at this time. Currently, much research is taking place to see if this is possible. However, valves from pig and cow hearts have been used for human heart valve replacements for years. Tissue, like that of a heart valve, doesn't present the same problems with rejections that organs do.

Why do living donations?

Patients who need kidney transplants have always been encouraged to find their living donors, usually a family member or close friend. The success rate is better and the waiting time is shorter than for a deceased donor kidney. However, it may not be possible for some family members or friends to donate because of medical, personal or matching issues.

What are the life-long considerations when I live with only one kidney?

Donating a kidney does not increase the risk of future health problems or decrease life expectancy. It is important for each living donor to be aware that if something happens to the one remaining kidney such as a severe traumatic injury or cancer, then the kidney function could be affected.