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UPMC Physician: Make an Informed Decision

Deciding to become an organ donor is important, and it’s worth considering more often than when you renew your license at the DMV.

Every nine minutes, someone in the United States joins the national organ transplant waiting list. Every day, 17 people on that list die waiting for an organ because there are not enough donors. Every person who says yes to organ donation gives hope to the tens of thousands of people waiting for organ, eye, and tissue donations.
Two Routes to Organ Donation

There are two ways you can give the gift of life through organ donation:

Living Donation: A living person can donate a kidney or a portion of their liver. Living donor transplant offers an alternative for people on the transplant waiting list and increases the number of organs available, saving more lives. The living donation process begins with an assessment at an accredited transplant center to determine eligibility. Next is the matching process. Living organ donors often have a beneficiary in mind when they undergo the suitability check. Others simply desire to save a person’s life, even if they don’t know the recipient personally.

Deceased Donation: This simply means that you authorize medical professionals — at the time of your death — to assess your eligibility to transplant your healthy organs or tissues to someone in need. Registering to be a deceased organ donor doesn’t guarantee that you will save someone else’s life, but it does make that possible in the right circumstances. If you choose to be a deceased organ donor, you may be able to donate your heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines, or lungs. You also can donate tissues, such as your corneas, heart valves, ligaments, veins, and bone.

There are over 106,000 Americans currently awaiting transplants, and many have been seeking a donor for years. Choosing organ donation, either living or deceased, has the potential to take recipients off the waiting list and give them another chance at life.
Consider the Facts

Below are five facts that can help you make the decision an informed decision about giving the gift of life:
Fact #1: If you are sick or injured, the priority of emergency medical personnel and doctors is to save your life.

Your life always comes first. Deceased donation doesn’t become a possibility until all lifesaving methods have failed.
Fact #2: Advanced age and health do not automatically disqualify you from organ donation.

No matter how old you are or if you have had a chronic illness, you may be able to become an organ donor. Organs have been donated from donors in their 80s and 90s. If you have an illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or even cancer, medical tests and physicians will determine what organs can be donated. It may turn out that some organs aren’t healthy enough for transplantation, but others may help save lives. Whatever your medical history, you should still enroll to become an organ donor.
Fact #3: One donor can save or enhance the lives of 75 others.

You don’t just save one life — you can save eight lives by donating your organs, restoring sight to two people, and healing more than 75 lives through tissue donation. You may hear stories about life-saving heart transplants, but you can also donate organs like the stomach, intestines, lungs, and pancreas. Connective tissues, skin, bones, bone marrow, and even corneas can be donated, as well.
Fact #4: It doesn’t cost anything to become an organ donor.

When you become a donor, any costs associated never fall to a deceased donor’s family members, the donor family pays only for medical expenses before death and costs associated with funeral arrangements.
Fact #5: All major religions approve of organ donation.

Leaders of all major religions consider permitting, allowing, and supporting organ donation. It is often thought to be a final act of generosity toward others.

Choosing to become an organ donor is an altruistic decision. Many people who have decided to become donors want to help others and create a legacy of living in the wake of their death. Through donation, donors can give the gift of life to those in need.

Discuss your wishes for organ donation with your family and take the step to register as a donor. To one day give the gift of life, register to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor at You can learn more about Transplant Services at UPMC by visiting

About Organ Donation
By Swaytha Ganesh, M.D.
Medical Director, UPMC Living Donor Program

Swaytha Ganesh, M.D., is the medical director of the UPMC Living Donor Program. She is renowned for her clinical expertise in treating a wide range of patients with liver disease and is committed to raising awareness of living-donor liver transplantation. Her areas of research include evaluating patients with liver disease, assessing their eligibility for living donor surgery, managing patients on the waiting list, and developing disease management protocols in post-liver transplant patients with metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, and systemic hypertension.

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