Frequently Asked Questions
Navigate Your Questions
Find answers about donation, common concerns, family resources and common concerns.
Do I have to register to become an organ donor? If I'm eligible to be a donor, but I'm not registered, can I still donate?
If you are eligible, but not registered, the decision will be left to your family.
If I’m a registered donor can my family decline donation after my death?
If you are 18 or older, your decision to be a donor is a first-person authorized advanced directive.
Is the decision to be a donor kept confidential?
The decision to become a registered organ donor is kept confidential by the national and state registries. Although the decision to become a registered organ donor is a very personal decision, we encourage people to talk with family and friends to make your wishes known. In the event that you become an organ donor and provide life-saving organs to someone in need -- your identity will be kept confidential and it will be up to your family to decide what information, if any, they want to share with the recipient.
Will the doctors or EMTs still try to save my life if they know that I’m an organ donor?
Yes. If you are taken to a hospital after an injury or medical crisis, it is the doctor or an EMT’s utmost priority to save your life. They are not involved in the organ and tissue donation or transplantation process and do not know your donor status. Your status as a donor is not considered until every effort has been made to save your life.
What is brain death and has anyone ever recovered from it?
Brain death occurs when a critically ill or injured patient loses blood flow to the brain and causes the brain to stop functioning. In this event, all functions of the brain stop and blood supply to the brain is lost. A person who is brain dead is legally confirmed as dead. Brain death is irreversible and there is nothing that can be done to heal it. No one has ever recovered from brain death. Organ donors are people who suffer brain death, but their body is kept functioning by a ventilator that provides oxygen to the major organs.
What is the difference between organs and tissue?
Human tissue is a collection of cells working together. An example of human tissue that can be donated are tendons and nerves. Organs are also a collection of tissues that form together to perform a particular function. Your heart, kidneys and lungs are examples of organs that can be donated. There are a total of 8 organs and 8 types of tissue that can be donated.
How are organs and tissues obtained?
Organs and tissue can be donated by people at the time of death. Some organs like kidneys or a portion of the liver can be provided by a living donor. Discover more about how organ donation works.
How are the organs distributed/who decides who gets an organ?
Patients are selected to receive an organ using a combination of donor and candidate medical data -- including factors such as blood type, medical urgency and location. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) powers the organ donation and transplantation system. Using a computerized network, candidates are then matched by criteria to ensure the best possible chance of long-term survival. This process is used across the nation.
Visit the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network for more.
Why would some of the organs/tissue that I consent to not be used for transplant?
A variety of factors are involved with ensuring organs and tissues are viable for donation, not just with a donor but also the recipient. Less than 1% of all deaths meet the specific medical criteria to be a donor, which is why choosing to be a registered donor is so important. Doing so gives hope to those patients on the waitlist.
Is organ transplantation success higher when organs are matched to the same ethnic background?
Transplants can be successful regardless of the ethnicity of the donor and recipient. The chance of longer-term survival may be greater if the donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of their shared genetic background. It's especially important to consider becoming an organ donor if you belong to an ethnic minority as certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minority populations. Because matching blood type is usually necessary for transplants, the need for minority donor organs is especially high.
Learn more about Race, Ethnicity & Donation.
Am I too old or sick to register as an organ donor?
Anyone of any age or health condition can become an organ and tissue donor.
Can the LGBTQ community be organ donors?
Yes. A person's sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression does NOT prevent that person from becoming an organ donor (deceased or living).
Are wealthy people able to “skip the waitlist” and get organ transplants faster?
When it comes to waiting for an organ transplant, the system in place treats us as equals. Rich or famous individuals cannot and do not get priority on the national transplant waitlist. Factors such as blood type, body size, location, severity of illness, and length of time on the waitlist are used to determine the best candidate for an organ.
Can organs be sold?
No. Purchasing and/or selling organs in the United States is illegal.
Is the organ and tissue donor’s body disfigured? Will I be able to have an open-casket funeral if I am an organ donor?
Organ and tissue donation does not affect the outward appearance of the donor’s body. An open-casket funeral is still an option.
Donor Family Resources
What type of grief support services does Donor Network West provide?
Donor Network West provides donor families with grief resources as part of our Aftercare program. The donor family Aftercare program includes bereavement literature, follow-up letters, facilitation of correspondence and meetings between donor families and recipients, and events to honor and remember donors.
What kind of information do donor families receive about the recipient?
Donor families only receive general information about the recipient. This is limited to the recipient's age, general health status and gender. All correspondence and information between donor families and recipients is anonymous until BOTH parties decide they would like to share information.
Are family members of donors able to contact their loved one's recipients?
Yes, although all communication between donor families and recipients will be initiated by Donor Network West to ensure privacy and confirm the communication intentions of both parties. We will review all letters written by the donor family and recipient to ensure there are no threats or requests for monetary compensation.
Does the organ donor’s family have any financial obligations when donating their loved one’s organs and tissue?
No, there is never a cost to the donor's family.
How can I volunteer and inspire others to become an organ donor?
Throughout the year, Donor Network West hosts a variety of programs to engage the diverse communities we serve and to raise awareness about the need for more people to register as organ donors.
Can I request Donor Network West to speak at my event?
Yes! Donor Network West welcomes the opportunity to share information about organ and tissue donation to audiences of all types and sizes. If you are interested in having a Donor Network West representative speak at your next event, submit a Speaker Request Form and we will follow up with you shortly.
Speaker Request Form
How can I make a monetary donation in honor of my loved one?
Of course! Your tax-deductible contribution will help us continue our efforts to save and heal more lives through organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research with the goal of ultimately ending the transplant waiting list.
How can I become a Donor Network West sponsorship partner?
Thank you for your interest in partnering with us.
Please refer to our Sponsorship Packet [>Sponsorship Packet PDF] and reach out to Stephanie Torralva at Donor Network West to schedule a time to discuss a sponsorship. firstname.lastname@example.org or 925.536.9348
How can I stay up to date with the latest Donor Network West news and events?
Donor Network West offers a variety of virtual and in-person events to educate the public about the importance of organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research. Check out our upcoming events.
What is organ and tissue donation?
Organ and tissue donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person and placing it into another person. This is often referred to as the "Gift of Life". Organ and tissue donation saves and heals lives.
Why is organ and tissue donation important?
Over 10,000 people in Northern California and Northern Nevada are on the transplant waitlist, in need of a life saving organ. See more on the impacts of organ donation.
What does it mean to become a registered organ donor?
When you register as an organ donor, you are making a legal decision that will be honored after your death. Your decision is registered and acknowledged by your state and/or by the national registry.
Who can become an organ donor?
You can. Anyone can. If you wish to be a donor and are 13 years or older, you can register online today, regardless of health conditions.
Learn more on registering to become a donor
Where can I register as a donor?
Right here. Become a donor. It only takes a minute!