Understanding the Process

Anyone could be a potential donor and everyone should consider registering, at any age. It’s important because less than 1% of the population ends up being eligible to donate based on the circumstances that must be met.

When Can Organs Be Donated?

To be eligible for organ donation, a person must be declared brain dead with no brain activity, and kept on a ventilator. Patients with partial brain injury and coma patients are still alive and receiving blood to the brain, meaning they are not candidates for donation.

Understanding Brain Death

Brain death is permanent. It’s the irreversible loss of the brain and brain stem, where all brain tissue is dead and no blood flow or electrical activity is present.

Leading Causes

  • Cerebrovascular injury: Massive bleeding caused by a stroke or ruptured aneurysm.
  • Anoxia: Loss of oxygen to the brain caused by drowning, heart attack or drug overdose.
  • Brain tumor: Uncontrollable growth resulting in permanent loss of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
  • Severe trauma: For example, a serious head injury caused by a motor vehicle accident.

How Donation Works

Organ procurement takes place like any other surgery—in a sterile operating room with careful, experienced surgeons. After the surgery, recovery professionals perform routine reconstruction and preservation so customary funeral arrangements are possible.

By Donation Only

Buying and selling organs is a federal crime. Among practical and ethical reasons, buying and selling organs would lead to inequitable access and some would have an unfair advantage based on wealth.

Fact or Fiction

Donor families don’t pay hospitals for organ donation surgery.

Organ and tissue recovery agencies assume expenses—donor families are never responsible for medical costs associated with donation.


Organ donation doesn’t interfere with the donor’s funeral.

Donation does not prohibit any part of the standard funeral process, including the ability to have an open-casket funeral.


Doctors won’t try as hard to save patients who are registered donors.

Doctors have no influence on donation, and would lose their medical license if they didn’t make every attempt to save a patient’s life.