How to Become an Organ Donor

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 24, 2023
How to Become an Organ Donor

More than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ, and many will die before one arrives. Here's how to become an organ donor and why you should be one.

Organ transplants can seem miraculous. About 50,000 corneas are transplanted each year in the United States. But many people need whole eyes, including soldiers who sustained wounds in combat. The Department of Defense is a main funder of a project by a team of surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh who replace those injured eyes with donor eyes.

Dozens of people have received face transplants after their faces were damaged in fires, attacks with poison, and other injuries.


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Yet even as surgical options advance, a practical problem persists: For years, there haven’t been enough donated organs of any kind to go around. According to U.S. government statistics, more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ. Nearly 20 Americans die on average each day for lack of one.

Only about half of Americans are signed up to donate organs at death, and only a small percentage leave usable organs.

Increasing the supply of organs

One approach to increasing the number of donors and organs is to loosen rules that discourage transplants of organs from people over the age of 65. “Age by itself shouldn’t be a deal breaker,” says David Klassen, MD, chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that oversees the U.S. system.

It may be possible to preserve donated organs longer. Congress has held hearings about whether it would be ethical to pay living donors for their organs.

Another idea is to require people to “opt-out” of donation, meaning their organs would be assumed available when they die unless they had said otherwise. Twenty-five countries in Europe operate under this system. A one study concluded that only about 10 percent of residents in opt-out countries do so.



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August 24, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN