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Organ Donation

Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ for the purpose of transplantation into another person. The system is managed with great care and integrity.

How Organ Donation Works

  1. Whether in a hospital or at the scene of an accident, emergency medical personnel immediately begin life-saving procedures. Every effort is made to save the patient at the hospital.
  2. Once a patient is determined brain dead by two different doctors who are unrelated to the transplant process, the hospital must refer the patient to the regional organ procurement organization (OPO), Cascade Life Alliance.
  3. Cascade Life Alliance donation coordinators, not the physician, determine whether organ donation is a medically suitable option.
  4. If the patient is a registered donor according to the Donate Life Northwest Donor Registry, the family is informed of their loved one's legally binding authorization for donation. In the absence of designation, the donation coordinator asks the legal next of kin for consent. 
  5. Once authorization is confirmed, either by the Donor Registry or the family, the Cascade Life Alliance donation coordinator orders a series of diagnostic tests and lab work to further evaluate organ function.
  6. When the lab work and diagnostic testing are completed, the donation coordinator contacts the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The UNOS computer system matches all of the donor's characteristics with potential recipients on the national waiting list. The donation coordinator does not get to choose who receives the donated organs; recipients are determined by body height and weight, blood and tissue type, length of time on the waitlist, geographic location, and medical urgency. Time is critical - this is why nearly 75% of donated organs go to local patients.
  7. Organs from donors are recovered in a surgical procedure conducted by transplant surgeons. At all times, the donor is treated with dignity and respect. Once the organs are recovered, they are transported and the process of transplantation into the intended recipient begins.
  8. Families can proceed with regular funeral arrangements. The decision to donate does not affect the option of an open casket, nor does it delay funeral services. A donor family does not pay any costs associated with the recovery of organs.
  9. Cascade Life Alliance offers each donor family ongoing support and grief resources.
  10. One donor can save up to 8 lives through the donation of their heart, lungs (2), liver, small intestine, kidneys (2), and pancreas.
Hospitals are required to report all deaths to tissue and eye banks. If the tissue donor meets donor eligibility, the registry is checked. Once authorization is verified, or consent is given by the potential donor’s family, a medical team is dispatched by the eye and/or tissue bank for recovery. - See more at:

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