Frequently Asked Questions About Organ,
Tissue and Eye Donation
Over 1,000 Hoosiers and more than 100,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. That’s enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium almost twice. In the U.S., another person is added to the transplant waiting list every 9 minutes. Each day 16 people die because a donated organ wasn’t available in time.
Anyone can sign up as an organ and tissue donor. Interested people should never rule themselves out due to age or medical condition. Physicians will determine at the time of death what organs and tissues can be donated to help others.
Organs that can be donated for transplantation include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, veins and tendons.
Each patient waiting for an organ transplant is listed with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the agency responsible for ensuring that donated organs are distributed fairly. When a donor is identified, the donor’s blood type, tissue type, body weight, size, etc., are matched against the list of patients currently waiting for transplant. In addition, the recipient’s severity of illness and time on the waiting list are factored into the matching process.
When medical professionals in an Indiana hospital identify a potential donor, they use a 24-hour phone number to contact Indiana Donor Network. Representatives from Indiana Donor Network then assist the referring hospital and the donor family with the medical, legal and ethical aspects of donation.
Federal law prohibits the sale of organs and tissues. All anatomical donations are an extraordinary gift — the gift of life.
The time a patient spends on the waiting list for an organ can vary from a few days to several years. The length of a patient’s wait is affected by several factors, including the urgency of his or her medical condition and the availability of donated organs. Tissue banks have a very limited supply of donated skin, bone, heart valves, tendons and corneas. All patients awaiting an organ or tissue transplant depend on the generosity of others.
The maximum time from recovery to transplantation varies by the type of organ/tissue:
- Kidney (48-72 hours)
- Liver (6-12 hours)
- Heart (4-5 hours)
- Lung (4-6 hours)
- Heart/Lung (4 hours)
- Heart valves (10 years)
- Pancreas (6-12 hours)
- Small intestine (6-12 hours)
- Skin (5 years)
- Bone (5 years)
- Cornea (14 days)
- Tendons (5 years)
These time frames are subject to change with advancements in technology.
Questions Regarding the Personal Decision to Donate
The quality of medical care will not change, regardless of your decision. All patients continue to receive the excellent care they deserve.
The identity of both the donor and the recipient is confidential. Indiana Donor Network will provide the donor’s family with basic information about the recipients, such as age and gender. Some donor family members and recipients choose to communicate anonymously, and Indiana Donor Network facilitates this process. If both the donor family and recipient elect in writing to meet each other, Indiana Donor Network can help facilitate this meeting.
An open casket funeral is possible for organ and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the donor is treated with care, respect and dignity.
Moral leaders around the world favor such donations as expressions of the highest humanitarian ideals. The gift of an organ or tissue essential to the life of another human being is consistent with the principles of Judeo-Christian teachings. If you have any questions, please consult your religious leader.
No. All costs related to organ and tissue donation are paid by the recovery agencies.
Hoosiers have four ways to sign up to be a donor:
- Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch or via the BMV’s online transaction system
- Online via Donate Life Indiana
- When you purchase a hunting, fishing or trapping license via the Indiana Department of Natural Resources
- Through the Health app on an iPhone
Unless under the age of 18, at the time of your death, your family cannot override your decision.