Facts of Life

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible?

Who can be a donor?
Anyone can decide to become a donor regardless of age, race or medical history. Your medical condition at the time of death determines what organs and tissues can be donated. Kansas citizens 18 years of age or older, may make their first-person authorization through the Kansas Organ & Tissue Donor Registry.

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How to become a donor.

How can I become an organ, eye and tissue donor?
There are several ways you can document your decision to give an anatomical gift:
  • Register your decision in the online Kansas Organ & Tissue Donor Registry www.donatelifekansas.com
  • Say "Yes" at the DMV, when asked whether you wish to designate your decision to be an organ & tissue donor and say "Yes" when also asked whether you wish to be listed in the statewide registry.
  • Complete and mail in a registration form. You may also call toll-free 1-888-744-4531 to obtain a copy of the form.
  • Sign the back of your driver/nondriver license with a permanent marker – be sure to have a witness sign, too.
  • Include your decision in an advance health care directive, will or living will.
  • Sign and carry a donor card or other signed record.
  • Provide any communication witnessed by two adults during a terminal illness or injury (one witness must be a disinterested witness).

How do I make my decision known?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
  • Inform your family and friends. Your family will be notified of your decision to donate at the time of your death and that your decision to donate is being honored. Inform them now so it will not be a surprise to them at a very difficult time. In the absence of a donor designation or if a person is under age 18 and is not an emancipated youth, the family will make decisions regarding donation. It is also possible to document your authorization in a legal document such as an advance health care directive or living will. However, if your family is unaware of your advanced health care directive or living will, they may be unable to carry out your wish.
  • Talk to your faith leader, friends and physician about your desire to be a donor.

Can I be a donor without being in the Registry?
Yes. Enrollment in the registry is not a requirement for donation. If you decide to be a donor, but prefer not to join the registry, it is important to tell your family about your decision. However, telling your family about your decision and joining the registry is still the best action to take.

What if I’m not a Kansas resident?
If you reside or travel to Kansas, you are encouraged to sign up in Kansas’s registry in addition to your home state registry. For information on how to enroll in your state, visit Donate Life America. Just click on the drop down menu to choose your state, and you will automatically be directed to a site that contains information on how to enroll.

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Healthcare Information

Will my decision to donate affect the quality of my medical care?
No. Organ, eye and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death is legally declared.
  • The doctors working to save your life are entirely separate from the medical team involved in recovering organs and tissues after death.

What is an advance directive for health care choices?
An advance health care directive is a legal document that outlines your decisions concerning medical care at or near the time of your death. An advance health care directive can also be legal authority to grant authorization for donation, provided you have outlined your decision to donate. Typically, an advance health care directive prohibits the use of intensive care interventions. However, if you plan to be a vital organ and tissue donor, the document must specify that intensive care interventions are only authorized for the purpose of organ and tissue donation.

Do I have to have an advance directive for health care choices to be a donor?
No. An advance health care directive, for the purpose of donation, is not required to be a donor. See How can I become an organ, eye and tissue donor.

What is brain death?
Brain death results from a severe, irreversible injury to the brain. Critical areas of the brain are damaged and no longer function. In situations of brain death, a person cannot sustain their own life, but vital body functions may be maintained in an intensive care unit for a short period of time. This maintains circulation to the vital organs long enough to facilitate organ donation. People who experience brain death can also donate tissue.

What is cardiac death?
Cardiac death results when the heart and breathing cease to function. All organs and tissue in the body suffer from a lack of oxygen circulation and die. People who experience cardiac death are able to donate tissue after their death

What medical conditions prohibit donation?
Each potential donor is evaluated for the presence of conditions or illnesses that might put a transplant recipient at risk. 

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Donation Process

What happens to my donated organs and tissue?
Patients receive organs based upon blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and other medical criteria. Patients receive tissues based on their medical condition and need.
  • A national allocation system ensures the fair distribution of organs in the United States. Social and financial data are not considered during the allocation process.
  • People eligible to receive organs are identified based upon many factors including blood and tissue typing, medical urgency (severity of illness), time on waiting list, other medical criteria, and geographical proximity to the donor.
  • Race, gender, age, ethnicity, income, or celebrity status are not factors in determining who receives an organ or tissue transplant. Additionally, the law strictly prohibits buying and selling of organs for transplantation.
  • Donated organs, eyes and tissues are given to people who need them the most. Typically, at the local level, the region, and finally all over the country. Under certain circumstances, organs, eyes and tissues may be sent out of the country to help patients in need.
  • Buying and selling organs is against the law!

Can I direct a donation?

  • It is permissible to specify an individual to receive a donated organ. If the organ is a suitable match for a person who is waiting for a transplant, they can receive the transplant as a gift.
  • You cannot specify a donation on the basis of age, gender, race or ethnicity. This would bypass the fair allocation system that currently exists.
  • If you have questions about directed donation, please contact Midwest Transplant Network, Heartland Lions Eye Banks, or Kansas Eye Bank and Cornea Research Center 

Can organs be given to people of different racial group or gender?
Yes. However organ size, which is affected by gender, is critical to match a donor heart, lung or liver with a recipient. Genetic makeup can be a factor when matching a kidney or pancreas donor and recipient because of the importance of tissue matching. Optimal tissue matching can happen within the same racial and genetic background. For example, an individual of Asian descent may match better with a kidney donated from another Asian versus a different race. However, cross-racial donations can and do happen with great success when matches are available.

Does the registry allow me to sign up as a marrow or living donor?
No. The registry is used for organ, eye and tissue donation after death.

Is the registry used for whole body donation?
No. Signing up in the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry does not grant permission for your body to be donated to medical schools. Organ and tissue donation for transplant or research is not the same as willed body donation. Willed whole body programs are usually associated with teaching hospitals at major universities, and arrangements must be made in advance directly with the institutions. Note: If you choose to consent to whole body donation, you will be unable to donate your organs or tissues for transplant.

When must organs be recovered?
Organs are recovered as soon as possible after death is legally declared. Tissue and Eye donation can be completed up to 24 hours after death.

Can my body be donated for the study of science after donation of organs and tissue?
YES. But, each academic institution has its own guidelines about accepting body donations. Not all academic institutions will accept body donations after organ and tissue donation. If you are interested in body donation it is recommended that you check with the academic institutions you wish to support. They can answer specific questions about organ and tissue donation and pre-arrange the donation of your body for the advancement of science.

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Family Issues

Do I have to tell my family?
No. Your family will be notified of your decision to donate at the time of your death. You are, however, strongly encouraged to inform family now so it will not be a surprise to them at a very difficult time.

Will donation affect memorial or funeral arrangements?

  • NO. Generally, donation does not delay funeral or memorial services.
  • Donation does not prevent an open casket funeral.

Can my relatives make the donation decision?
If you have recorded your decision to be an organ and tissue donor and have not revoked that decision, then your relatives cannot make the decision for you. In the absence of a donor designation or if a person is under the age of 18 and is not an emancipated minor, the law provides a priority list of who is responsible for making the final donation decision.

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