About organ, eye and tissue donation

Is there a need for eye and tissue donors?

Yes! In the United States there are tens of thousands of individuals waiting for eye and tissue transplants.

Who can be a donor?

Age limitations may apply with some specific  tissues, but in general, anyone who wishes to donate should sign a donor card and have a family discussion. Donor suitability is determined at the time of death.

How do I become a tissue donor?

The most important step in becoming a donor is to discuss your wishes with your immediate family members. They will be asked at the time of your death to give permission for your donation. After discussing your wishes with your family, enroll as a donor on the New York State Donate Life Registry by clicking here.

How do eye/tissue recovery programs learn of potential donors?

According to law, all hospitals in the United States are required to notify their designated organ / tissue procurement organization of all deaths and imminent deaths. CNYETB has a communication center that operates 24 hours a day to handle referrals from Central New York area hospitals.

Will medical personnel work as hard to save me if they know I am a donor?

The quality of medical and nursing care will not change, regardless of your decision to be a donor. Doctors, nurses and other personnel who treat patients at the time of death are in no way involved with transplant programs or possible recipients. Donation is considered only after every effort has been made to save the patient's life.

Will eye and tissue donation interfere with funeral arrangements or change the appearance of the donor's body?

Donation will not disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket. On rare occasions, there may be some swelling or discoloration at the recovery site. The funeral director can usually minimize this during preparation so that it is not noticeable during viewing. Most donations are performed in operating room conditions and the body is treated with the same care as a surgery patient. After donation, the body is carefully reconstructed to normal appearance and donation coordinators -- the professionals who handle arrangements for the donation -- provide funeral directors with detailed information so the body can be prepared for burial. There are no obvious stitches and donation won't usually interfere with funeral plans including open casket services.

Will donation delay the funeral?

In general, eye and tissue donation must take place within  24 hours after a declaration of death. Most donations are completed sooner. Immediately after the donation, the body is released to the funeral service. The donation  should not delay funeral plans.

Is donation against my religious beliefs?

Most major religions support donation as an act of human kindness in keeping with religious teachings. People are often unaware of the attitudes of their faith toward donation; they may be misled by old superstitions or misreading of religious texts. You may also wish to discuss any questions about donation with a clergy member or spiritual advisor.

Can eyes (corneas)/tissues be transplanted between sexes and races?

Yes. There is no matching required for eye and/or tissue donors and their recipients.

Will my family have to pay if I am a donor?

No. Donation is a gift; it costs the donor family nothing. All the costs associated with the recovery of donated eyes and tissues are charged to the organ / tissue procurement organization.

Isn't it cruel to talk to a grieving family about donation?

A number of in-depth studies of families who have donated eyes and tissues clearly show that donation can provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation. Even families that decide not to donate report they appreciated the opportunity to choose. Studies also indicate that families may experience anger and frustration if they are not given information about donation. Donation tends to give families a sense that something positive has resulted from an otherwise tragic loss -- especially when the donor is young and death is unexpected. Donation will not lessen a family’s grief, but it can be a tangible tribute to the individual they have lost.

Will the identity of the recipients be revealed to the donor family?

Occasionally a donor family will correspond directly with or even meet an individual transplanted with their loved one's cornea or tissue, but only after both parties have expressed written intention to do so. Typically the identity of the donor and the recipients are kept confidential. CNYETB provides the donor's family with basic information about the recipients such as age, sex, profession and general location. The donor families and transplant recipients may correspond anonymously through the procurement organization.

What does cardiac death mean?

Cardiac death means the patient is without oxygen. His or her heart has stopped beating. Tissue and eye donations are options after cardiac death has occurred. Some of these tissues include corneas, bone, heart valves, veins, skin, nerves, and soft connective tissues, such as tendons.

Where can I learn more about organ donation?

To learn more about organ donation, visit www.unyts.org.