Gurney with an organ donation box being held by a hospital worker.

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What You Need to Know About Organ Donation

Each year, the month of April is nationally recognized as Donate Life Month — a time to honor organ donors and educate ourselves about the importance of organ donation.

Thanks to modern medicine, people can choose to become organ donors after they pass away. This means that doctors will remove their organs and pass them along to someone who needs them.

For example, maybe you’ve heard of people with diseases like cystic fibrosis receiving a lung transplant. This is a type of organ donation.

Someone who is an organ donor can save eight lives! This is a valuable way to serve our communities and help other people. And registering as an organ donor is a quick and easy process. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is Organ Donation Important?

Organ donation is a very real and pressing need. Take a look at these statistics showing the need for organ donation:

  • 103,233 people are currently waiting for a transplant in the U.S., yet only about 46,000 transplants occur each year.
  • Every day, 17 people pass away while waiting for a transplant.
  • Someone else is added to the donor waiting list every eight minutes.

People of every age, ethnicity, and gender are waiting to receive organs such as a kidney, liver, or pancreas. They need these organs because their own organs are no longer optimally functioning due to a medical condition.

FAQs About Organ Donation

Can you donate organs while alive?

Yes! Some of our organs are not necessary for life. This means that, if you are in good health, you can choose to donate one of your organs while still alive. This is known as “living donation.” For example, you can donate your kidney or part of your liver.

What organs can you donate?

When an organ donor passes away, they can donate their:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Intestines
  • Uterus

There are also tissues in our bodies that can be donated and transplanted. These include:

  • Corneas
  • Heart valves
  • Bone marrow
  • Bone
  • Skin
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Cartilage
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerves
  • Hands
  • Face

How does the actual process of an organ transplant work?

An organ transplant is a surgical procedure. After an organ donor passes away, doctors will conduct extra tests to make sure the person’s organs are able to be donated, and to make sure the person is deceased. Then, doctors will surgically remove the person’s organ(s) and send the organs to a transplant hospital, where other doctors will conduct surgery to give the organs to patients who need them. A computerized algorithm matches organ donors with potential recipients based on factors like physicality, need, and location.

Does organ donation cost money?

No. As an organ donor, you, your family, and your estate will not be responsible for any costs. Insurance and/or the organ recipient will pay any necessary costs. Your family will only be responsible for the funeral and burial, and any medical care you received prior to death.

Can you have an open casket funeral after organ donation?

Yes. An organ donor’s body is treated with honor and respect throughout the entire donation process. And for the funeral itself, the body will be dressed in clothes, with nothing looking amiss to friends and family.

Am I eligible to be an organ donor?

There are no age limits for organ donation. However, if you pass away before turning 18, your parent will make the final call on what happens to your body and your organs.

Some people are concerned that organ donation is against their religion. However, most major faiths — including Islam, Buddhism, and Catholicism — do not have anything against organ donation.

Racial diversity among organ donors is particularly important. Usually, an organ donor and an organ recipient need to have the same blood type. Since some blood types are more common among ethnic minority groups, it’s important for people in these groups (such as Black Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics) to donate organs.

Finally, while there are a few medical conditions (such as active cancer) that would prohibit someone from being an organ donor, for the most part you are free to register as a donor no matter the state of your health.

How to Become an Organ Donor

You can become an organ donor by:

  • Registering at your local DMV
  • Signing up online through your state registry
  • Using the Health app on your iPhone to register through Donate Life America (tap your picture in the upper right-hand corner, then tap “Organ Donation”)

By joining a donor registry, you are providing your legal consent for your organs to be donated to someone else after your death.

Once you’ve registered, notify your family of your decision. You can also state your wish for organ donation in your advance directive. And make sure to keep all of your personal information up-to-date over the years in the donor registry.

We’re here for you!

Bankers Life is here to help customers with their financial and insurance needs so please visit us at to learn more.

Bankers Life is a private company that is not Medicare, Medicaid or MaineCare and is not a governmental agency