Q. Will doctors still try to save someone’s life if they know they are a donor?
A. A doctor who is trying to save someone’s life in hospital has no way of knowing that they are an organ donor.
Organ donation is considered only after all life-saving efforts have been used and it is certain that a person will not survive. Organ donor registration records are confidential, and only accessible by the donation team at BC Transplant, after it is determined that a person has no hope of survival.
Q. Does it matter how old someone is? Would anyone want the organs of someone very old?
A. The oldest organ donor in BC was 76 years old; in Canada it was 92 years old. There is no age limit, young or old. If it’s something a person wants, then they should register their decision and let the specialists decide if donation is possible.
Q. Can someone register if they have a medical condition?
A. Yes, everyone should register a decision regardless of medical condition. The medical team does a thorough examination of every potential donor to determine what organs can be donated. There are very few medical conditions that would rule someone out as an organ donor.
Q. If someone registers, does that mean they will become a donor?
A. It is very unlikely that someone would ever be a donor. A person is more likely to need a transplant than become an organ donor. Only about 1% of people in BC die in a way that allows them to be an organ donor. They need to be in a hospital, on a ventilator that is helping them breathe, and have no hope of survival. Organs are only recovered from someone if there is a matching recipient.
Q. Why is it so important to register? Won’t they just ask the family?
A. Organ donation happens at a time of tragedy. In our experience, when a family sees a copy of the signed organ donor registration form, it provides relief and comfort and helps them support their loved one’s wish to be an organ donor.
We also encourage each person to talk to their family about their wishes for organ donation, so that they know what their loved one would want.
Q. Can a family override a person’s decision?
A. Donation happens at a time of tragedy. We ask the family if they are aware of any change in their loved one’s decision, and will honour their wishes. In our experience, when a family sees a copy of the signed registration form it provides relief and comfort and helps them support their loved one’s wish to be an organ donor. We also encourage each person to talk to their family about their wishes for organ donation, so that they know what their loved one would want.
Q. What do I say if someone says their religion does not allow organ donation?
A. Most of the world’s major religions support organ donation as an act of life saving, giving and compassion.
Q. What organs can be donated?
A. Heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, pancreas islet
Q. How are recipients chosen?
A. There are many factors that go into choosing a recipient for someone’s organs, including blood type, a person’s size, how sick they are, and how long they have been waiting for a transplant.
Q. Can I say who I want my organs to go to?
A. No. Organs from deceased donors are allocated ‘without prejudice’ following a comprehensive review and assessment process.
Q. What if someone passes away in another province or jurisdiction?
B. Organ donation takes place in the country/state/province where the death occurs according to the policies and procedures in that jurisdiction.
Q. What does it mean to consent to donate organs and tissue for research?
A. Medical advancement depends on the use of human biological material. It often provides the best way of understanding how the body works and reacts to treatment. It can also help advance and improve organ and tissue transplantation. If a person’s organs and tissue cannot be transplanted, they can be donated for research purposes if they have consented to donate organs and tissue for both transplant and research.
Q. Can I donate my entire body to science as well?
A. Only following eye or cornea donation, not organ donation.
Q. Does this mean I am also registered to be a living donor?
A. No. Living donation is an entirely different process. For more information see Living Kidney Donation.
Q. How long does the organ donation process take?
A. The organ donation process takes approximately 24 hours. After donation, the body is released to the family for funeral arrangements.
Q. How long can an organ survive before it needs to be transplanted?
A. The times are ideal, organs can survive for longer. Heart and lungs are 4-6 hours, liver for 8 hours and kidney for 12-18 hours.