When it comes to organ donation, don’t get your facts from hospital TV shows. Here’s what happens in real-life organ donations.
Organ transplantation in real life is not how it appears on TV. After months of waiting, an organ can become available and you have to move quickly.
The organ matching process
In real life, the matching process is very complex. The United Network for Organ Sharing supervises all transplants in the U.S. The matching process involves these six steps:
- An organ is donated.
- The donor’s vital statistics are entered into the National Transplant Computer Network database.
- The network generates a ranked list, according to medical criteria and location, from a pool of screened candidates. There’s no way to be bumped up on a list because there is no general list, only a pool of candidates. The computer creates a ranked list only when a donor organ becomes available.
- The hospital where the top-ranked transplant recipient is a patient is notified of the available organ.
- The transplant recipient’s doctors decide if it’s a good match.
- If it is a good match, the transplant recipient is told an organ is available. If it’s not a good match, the hospital of the second-ranked transplant recipient on the list is contacted, and so on.
How a match is chosen
There is no way to know how long you will need to wait for an organ. The order of the organ recipient ranked list depends on various medical criteria. Each case is different. Donors and recipients are matched on many factors, which may include:
- Blood type
- Tissue type
- Organ size
- Condition of the immune system
- Severity of the organ recipient’s illness
- How long the recipient has been on the waiting list
- Physical distance between the donor and recipient
The financial status, gender and religion of the organ recipient are not taken into account.
Are you an organ donor?
Sadly, many people die each year waiting for an organ. While there is a network for people awaiting transplants, there is no national registry of organ donors. Even if your driver’s license says you are an organ donor or you carry an organ donor card, your family may have the last say. That’s why it’s important to share your wishes with your loved ones. Besides organs, heart valves, bone marrow and tendons are also needed.
Keep these things in mind when deciding to become an organ donor:
- Most major religions in the U.S. approve of organ and tissue donation.
- Organ donation does not cause disfiguration. An open-casket funeral is still possible if your organs are donated.
- There is no cost to the organ donor or their family for donation.