Donor Registration

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. In Oregon, everyone at least 13 years old can register. There are 4 ways to join the Donor Registry in Oregon: 1) Code your driver’s license/permit/ID card at the DMV; 2) Online at www.donatelifenw.org; 3) Request a paper form from Donate Life Northwest; 4) Through the Medical ID app on your iPhone. If you register at the DMV, a “D” will be printed at your license. If you register one of the other three ways, the “D” will not appear on your license, but nonetheless, your consent will be documented in the confidential Donor Registry.

Washington residents must be at least 15 and a half years old to join the Washington Donor Registry. You can also register at the DMV, online at www.lcnw.org, through a paper form, or through the Medical ID app on your iPhone.

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 recover happens only after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and death has been legally declared.

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 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.

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. If you are under 18 years of age, parental authorization is needed. 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!

Does my registration grant consent for whole body donation?

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. For more information visit Whole Body Donation.

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.

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.

Donation & Transplantation

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 and 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 (UNOS) 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.

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 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, lungs (2), liver, pancreas, kidneys (2), intestines. For more information, visit our page on Organ Donation.

In contrast, the option of tissue and cornea donation is available to most individuals. A single tissue donor can save and enhance over 75 lives through the donation of: bone, corneas, skin, heart valves and associated cardiovascular tissue, and connetive tissues. For more information, visit our page on Tissue Donation.

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 a mechanical support system. Because brain death happens in less than 1% of the population, viable organ donors are rare. However, the criteria required for organ donation does not apply to tissue and eye donation. This is why so many more people-- including people who don't die at a hospital or die of natural causes-- are potentially eligible to save and enhance lives through tissue and/or eye donation. For more information, visit our page on Deceased Donation.

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

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. 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 determined whether the person will be a donor. For more information, visit our Organ Donation page.

Does my religion support donation?

All major religions practiced in the U.S. support donation as a charitable act. Click here to view our Faith and Donation handout , which provides an overview of different religion’s beliefs on donation.

Where do organ transplants take place?

Organ transplants occur only in hospitals which specialize in these operations. For more information about transplant centers, visit our Transplantation page.

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

Organ, eye, and tissue donation doesn't interfere with or delay any funeral arrangements.

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. The donor family will still be responsible for any medical costs incurred before death and for any funeral expenses.

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. 

What are the benefits of tissue transplantation?

Tissue transplants enhance and save lives. Find out more here.

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

This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and varies based on which whole body donation program you choose. To find out more, visit our page on Whole Body Donation. This is a separate program from Donate Life Northwest.

Do I have to die to save lives through donation?

No. There are many ways to donate and save lives through living donation.

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

Kidneys are the most common organs donated by living donors. If you are considering being a living kidney donor, please contact your local transplant center

Why do living donations?

There are many things that you can donate while still alive, such as: a kidney, a portion of your liver, blood and bone marrow, a portion of your lung. The most commonly needed organ is a kidney. You can greatly help someone who is waiting for a kidney transplant by being a living donor. This greatly reduces waiting times and on average are more successful. Find out more information on living kidney donation here.

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

If you have questions about your status on the waiting list, you should ask the team at your transplant hospital. For contact information, visit our page on Transplantation

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

Transplant centers have social workers and financial counselors who work with you while being evaluated for a transplant to help you find the necessary financial resources.

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.

How does citizenship documentation affect access to transplantation?

Please contact your local transplant center

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

African, Native, Asian, and Hispanic Americans are three times more likely than Caucasians to suffer from end-stage kidney disease, often as the result of high blood pressure and other conditions that can damage the kidneys. Transplants are matched based on tissues, and generally, people are genetically more similar to people of their own ethnicity or race, creating a better match. Although, in the past, there have been longer waiting times for minority patients, with changes to new allocation systems, waiting times have shortened. 

I was never asked about donation when my loved one died. Why?

State law requires hospitals to offer families the option of organ and tissue donation. However, if the death does not occur in a hospital, it is up to the family to suggestion donation. Furthermore, certain health conditions or diseases, or the manner of death, may preclude someone from the option of being a donor.

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.