Frequently Asked Questions About Organ, Tissue and Eye Donation

General Questions

More than 1,000 Hoosiers are among more than 100,000 Americans waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. In the U.S., another person is added to the transplant waiting list every nine minutes. Each day, 16 people die because a donated organ wasn’t available in time.

Anyone can sign up to become an organ and tissue donor. No one should ever rule themselves out as a donor due to age or medical condition. A physician team, separate from the one providing lifesaving treatment, will determine prior to the time of death what organs and tissues one can donate.

Organs that can be donated for transplantation include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, veins and tendons.

No. Being in a coma and being brain dead are different. Patients can recover from comas. Brain death is declared when a patient has no brain activity and cannot breathe on his or her own. Brain death is irreversible. To be declared brain dead, the patient must undergo a series of tests to confirm brain death. Only after being declared brain dead can the process for organ donation begin.

Each patient waiting for an organ transplant is listed with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the agency responsible for how donated organs are distributed. Once identified, a donor’s blood and tissue type, body weight, size and other factors are matched with the list of patients currently waiting for transplant. In addition, the recipient’s severity of illness and time on the waiting list are factored into the matching process.

Federal law prohibits the sale of organs and tissues. All anatomical donations are an extraordinary gift — the gift of life.

The time a patient spends on the national transplant waiting list for an organ can vary from a few days to several years. The length of a patient’s wait is affected by several factors, including the urgency of his or her medical condition and the availability of donated organs.

The quality of medical care will not change, regardless of your decision to sign up to be a donor. All patients continue to receive the excellent care they deserve.

No, the transplant system is designed to avoid discrimination of any kind. Race, gender or income are never considered during the transplant matching process.

Transplants often help people who developed or were born with a condition that led to organ failure. A patient must pass a series of rigorous exams to be eligible for the national transplant waiting list.

Questions about one's personal decision to donate

The identity of both the donor and the recipient is confidential. Indiana Donor Network will provide the donor’s family with basic information about the recipients, such as age and gender. Some donor family members and recipients choose to communicate anonymously and Indiana Donor Network facilitates this process. If both the donor family and recipient elect in writing to meet each other, Indiana Donor Network can facilitate this meeting.

Moral leaders around the world favor such donations as expressions of the highest humanitarian ideals. The gift of an organ or tissue essential to the life of another human being is consistent with the principles of Judeo-Christian teachings. If you have any questions, please consult your religious leader.

Yes. Anyone can sign up as an organ donor, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. At time of death, medical teams will determine what gifts can save and enhance the lives of others.

No. All costs related to organ and tissue donation are paid by the recovery agencies.

An open-casket funeral is possible for organ and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the donor is treated with care, respect and dignity.

Indiana residents can register to be an organ and tissue donor at their local Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch, online at Donate Life Indiana, using the Health App on iPhone or iPad, when buying a hunting or fishing license online, through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources or when applying for or renewing their professional license for employment with the state. Once a decision is made, registered donors should share their decision with their family.

Yes. There is a limited window after time of death when organs are viable for transplant. By the time your will is read and released, donation will likely no longer be possible. Beyond signing up as a donor, the most important thing you can do is talk to your family about your decision to be a donor.

Unless under the age of 18, at the time of your death your family cannot override your decision to be an organ and tissue donor.