Frequently Asked Questions
Donation and transplantation can seem complicated.
But there's one very simple truth about donation that everyone should know: anyone over the age of 16 can register to be an organ, tissue and eye donor regardless of their age, health or lifestyle.
Below are answers to questions we frequently hear about donation.
How great is the need for donors?
With approximately 120,000 American’s waiting for life-saving organ transplants, the need for donors far outweighs the organs available for transplant. In Nebraska alone, there are nearly 500 residents in need of a transplant. Statistically, 50 of those Nebraskans will die each year because they will not receive the life-saving procedure they need. Nationally, 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant—that's about 8,000 Americans each year.
Will registering affect my medical care? Will doctors still try to save me?
Medical care is not affected in any way by your status as a registered donor. Every attempt is made to save your life. In fact, patients must receive the most aggressive life-saving care in order to be potential organ donors. If a patient’s heart stops during life-saving efforts, organs cannot be transplanted. Organ and tissue donation is only considered after a physician has pronounced a person brain dead or the patient's family has decided to discontinue life-sustaining care.
Are there age limits for organ donation?
Infants, children and even indviduals in their 90s have all successfully donated organs. Anyone 16 or older can register to be a donor. In the case of pediatric donation, a child's parents will be asked to consider the life-saving opportunity for donation.
Are there medical conditions that would prevent me from being a donor?
There are no medical restrictions for registering to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor. So even if you have a chronic illness or have had serious health issues, you can still register to be a donor. Remember that every potential donor undergoes a thorough medical evaluation—including a review of past medical records—at the time of their death to determine if their organs and tissues are healthy and safe for transplant. There's no need to exclude yourself from the Donor Registry because of concern over a medical issue.
Will my family Incur more hospital bills because of donation?
No. There is no cost to the donor's family or their estate for donation. All expenses related to donation are covered by the donation organization. Hospital care prior to authorization for donation and funeral expenses are the responsibility of the donor's family.
Is an open casket funeral possible if I donate?
A donor's body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and in most cases, donation does not affect the appearance of the donor for funeral services. We work with the donor's family and the funeral director to prepare for and accommodate the desired funeral arrangements and viewing wishes.
Does my religion support donation?
Nearly all major religions in the United States support organ donation, but we encourage you to discuss any concerns with your spiritual advisor. You may also consult the Theological Perspective on Organ Donation provided by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for a comprehensive list of many religious organizations' stances on donation.
If I'm registered, does my family have to authorize donation?
By registering to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor, you definitively state your desire to be a donor. This declaration becomes a legal and binding decision for anyone who is over the age of 18. Because you've made this decision, your family does not have to worry about what you would want to do. The donation organization is legally required to carry out your wishes despite any opposition from family members.
Parents of registered donors between the ages of 16 and 18 may ammend or revoke a minor's donation decision.
If you have not registered as a donor, your legal decision maker will be notified about the opportunity for donation and asked to make a decision on your behalf.
I'm interested in whole body donation. How does that differ from organ, tissue and eye donation?
Whole body donation is a wonderful opportunity to advance medicine and aid in the education and training of medical professionals, whereas organ, tissue and eye donation serves to save and enhance the lives of those in need of a transplant. Whole body donation is not facilitated by Nebraska Organ Recovery and in most cases an individual who has donated organs and tissues cannot be a whole body donor.
However, if you are interested in whole body donation, there is no reason you cannot register to be an organ donor and complete the steps to be a body donor as well.
Learn more about the Deeded Body Program from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
I'm registered at the DMV? Do I need to register online too?
Most people register to be a donor at their local DMV when getting their driver's license. If you've done this, there is no need to register online unless you would like to update your registry in any way. Nebraska Organ Recovery maintains the Donor Registry of Nebraska and coordinates with the DMV to receive the names of all those that registered through the licensing process.
I registered online, so I don't have the heart on my driver's license. How will anyone know I want to be a donor?
You don't need a heart on your license or any other form of identification to let people know that you're a registered donor. At the time of your death, state and national registries will be checked to determine if you are registered.
Regardless of whether you register at the DMV or online, we strongly encourage you to let your loved ones know that you would like to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor. By registering to be a donor, you've relieved your family of the burden of having to make that decision for you at the time of your death. But it's always a good idea to let them know ahead of time so there are no surprises during what is likely a very difficult time.
How do I remove myself from the Donor Registry?
If you are considering removing yourself from the registry because of your age or a medical condition, please understand that this is not necessary. There are no age limits for organ donation and there are no medical restrictions that prevent someone from registering or remaining on the Donor Registry. Every donor is evaluated at the time of their death to determine if their organs and tissues are healthy and safe for transplant.
If you have experienced or heard something about donation that is causing you to remove yourself from the registry, please contact us to talk through the issue. We simply want to assure that you have accurate information before removing yourself unnecessarily or address any problems that may exist.
If you still want to remove your name from the registry, complete the registry form again, but select the "Change my status to Non-Registered." option at the top of the form.