Donation Process

Transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. Multiethnic groups are in desperate need of more organ donors.
Learn more about organ donation statistics by race.

This video from the Department of Health and Human Services provides an overview of how the donation and transplantation process works.

The need for donated organs is much greater than their availability. Although most Americans are supportive of donation, the shortage of available organs makes it imperative that every opportunity for donation is recognized. The donation process is a complex series of events coordinated by medical professionals from Cascade Life Alliance and the hospital. This process begins after a patient arrives at the hospital with a severe brain injury. Contrary to popular belief, saving the patient’s life is always the first priority, regardless of donation status. Hospital staff take all measures to save the patient’s life and only when death is inevitable, will organ and tissue donation become a possibility.

To ensure that donation is carried out in an equitable and ethical manner and in accordance with medical values and principles, many federal and state regulations have been enacted. In addition, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) was created to govern the national process of fairly matching donor organs to waiting recipients.

Facts about Donation

  • If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after death has been declared by a physician.
  • One donor can save eight lives and enhance 75 others through organ, eye, and tissue donation.
  • Organs and tissue that can be donated include: heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, corneas, skin, tendons, bone, nerve and heart valves.
  • A national computer system and strict standards are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs. Organs are matched by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time and geographic location.
  • People of all ages and medical histories can be potential donors.
  • When you register to become an organ donor you are making a legal decision and, even after your death, your decision will be honored.
  • Even if you have indicated your desire to be a donor on your driver’s license, registering with the National Donate Life Registry ensures your family will know your wishes.
  • All major religions support donation as one of the highest forms of love and giving. Read more
  • An open-casket funeral is possible for organ donors.
  • There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ donation.