Who can sign up on the Donate Life DC Registry?
The Donate Life DC registry allows District of Columbia residents who are at least 18 years of age to register their authorization to donate all or specific organs and tissues upon their death. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 can join the Donate Life DC registry, but until the designated donor is 18 years old, parents or a legal guardian will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time.
Can my family override my decision to donate?
Once you sign up with the Donate Life DC registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ and tissue recovery. Should you be in the position to donate, your next of kin will be presented with documentation of your registration but will not have the power to override your decision. It is important to tell your next of kin or healthcare power of attorney of your wishes so that they may be prepared to cooperate with the health care team about your medical history.
Why register? Isnít it enough to have a heart on my driver license or carry an organ and tissue donor card?
If you have a donor designation on your D.C. driverís license, that information will be securely stored in the Donate Life DC registry. It is recommended that all residents check the registry to make sure that the information is correct and up-to-date.
A donor designation on your D.C. driverís license and/or a signed and witnessed donor card does grant authorization for organ and/or tissue recovery, but due to the suddenness and emotion surrounding the circumstances, both documents are rarely available at the time a family is approached regarding donation.
With the Donate Life DC registry, your desire to donate is stored in a secure, confidential database. Should your death result in the opportunity for you to be a donor, an official record of your donor designation will be readily available and cannot be overturned by your family. Thus, should you be medically suitable to donate, your wishes will be respected and your family will be relieved of the burden of making a decision on your behalf.
Does my age, pre-existing medical condition, or sexual orientation prevent me from being a donor?
Do not rule yourself out. The fact that you want to be a donor is something to be celebrated, and we encourage you to register your decision with pride. Age, most medical conditions or sexual orientation do not exclude you from being a suitable organ and tissue donor. (In fact, there have recently s been a 93-year-old kidney donor, and 83-year-old liver donor and a 99-year-old cornea donor!) There are very few automatic rule-outs, and due to medical advancements, even some of these may change over time. In the event you are in a position to be an actual donor, medical specialists will evaluate your medical history to determine your suitability to donate. If you wish to be a donor, sign up!
Can I sign up my children?
Due to federal privacy laws prohibiting the collection of personal information for individuals under age 13, the Donate Life DC registry is unable to accept registrations for children 12 and under. Until registrants and non-registrants alike are 18 years old, their parents (or legal guardians) will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time. Your wish to make that decision for your children should be shared with your family.
How do you ensure that someone does not sign up another person without his or her knowledge or consent?
Of the 40+ state donor registries now in operation, to date there have been no reported problems with persons registering people other than themselves. The authenticity of the registrant can be determined using the date/time of the registration, personal information requested during the signup process and the confirmation email address if used. Family members are also consulted at the time of donation and will be able to verify the donorís information at that time.
Does the registry allow me to sign up to be a marrow or living organ donor?
We are pleased to include on the registry links to information about blood, marrow and living kidney donation here
but this is a registration for deceased donation wishes only.
Does my registration grant consent for whole body donation?
Signing up with Donate Life DC 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. Please note: should you choose to consent to whole body donation, you will be unable to donate your organs or tissues for transplant.
I have an advance directive authorizing donation of my organs. Should I also register with the Donate Life DC registry, or will the advance directive be enough?
Due to the rapid and emotional nature of events surrounding sudden death, often times families do not have time to check legal documents prior to being approached about donation. However, since the Donate Life DC registry is viewed in all potential donation cases prior to approaching the family, recovery personnel are able to share proof of registration with family members at the time donation is discussed with them.
Each state has its own laws regarding consent for organ donation. Some states have registries while others rely on donor cards or advance directives. If consent is not given through either of these means, all states defer to next-of-kin to make the donation decision on behalf of their loved one.
I have a friend serving as my health care proxy, with a signed power of attorney. Can that person authorize donation for me?
Yes. The holder of a health care power of attorney may make donation decisions. However, if you are registered on Donate Life DC, that registration is a first person authorization, and your proxy will be presented with that information at the appropriate time. It is best to discuss all your end of life decisions with your proxy at the time you sign the power of attorney.
Is it possible to restrict my donation from specific groups?
Federal law does not allow you to restrict your donation to or from specific classes of individuals. By checking the ďDonation LimitationsĒ box on the first signup page, the subsequent page allows you to opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissues or having your organs and/or tissues donated for research.
How do people in other states sign up? Is there a national registry?
There is no national registry. All matters concerning organ and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each stateís respective laws. On Donate Life DC you are shown the option of going to the Virginia registry www.save7lives.org
or to www.donatelife.net
to click on the state in question. Currently there is no registry in the state of Maryland except the designation on your driverís license.
What if I donít have an email account or access to a computer?
If you do not have an email account, you can get a free email account by visiting www.hotmail.com
or you may also use the email address of a relative. If you do not have access to your own computer, you may sign up at your neighborhood library. If you do not have an email account, you will not receive a confirmation that you have signed up on the registry.
I donít want to sign up online. Is there any other way to register?
In addition to online registrations, you may sign up with the Donate Life DC registry when you apply for or renew your driver license or ID card through the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
If you are unable to sign up online or via the DMV, you may sign a donor card to indicate your wishes. However, you should share your decision with your next of kin or health care proxy in case the donor card is not available at the time you become a candidate to actually donate.
How do I print my registration card?
The screen that confirms your registration displays your unique Registration ID and Password. It also includes a donor card that can be cut out and placed in your wallet. It is not necessary to carry a donor card, as you are registered in the Donate Life DC database. At any time, you may return to the registry website, click on Update My Info
, enter your login information, then print the confirmation screen.
What do I do if Iíve lost my Registration ID number and/or my password?
Please contact a Donate Life DC registry administrator at info@DonateLifeDC.org
. Also, you may sign up again with your most current information and your most recent registration record will be used in the event that you are a potential donor. However, it is recommended that you keep your Registration ID and password in a safe place for making updates.
How do I make changes to my registration?
If you sign up online, the screen that confirms your registration displays your unique Registration ID and Password. If you sign up at the DMV, your driver license number acts as your Registration ID number. At any time, you may visit the registry website, click on Update My Donor Profile, enter your login information, then change your password, personal information, specify donation limitations or remove your name from the Donate Life DC registry.
If something should happen to me while I am traveling, what role does my registration play?
All matters concerning organ and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each stateís or countryís respective laws. While your Donate Life DC registration will not serve as legally binding consent for donation outside DC, it will serve as a clear indication of your wish to donate and will be shared with your family when they are approached by the local organ recovery agency.
What is organ and tissue donation?
Organ and tissue donation is the process of recovering organs and tissues from a deceased person and transplanting them into others in order to save or enhance the lives of those in need. Up to eight lives can be saved through organ donation, and another 50 lives may be improved through tissue donation.
How many people need donated organs and tissue?
There are currently more than 2,200 local residents and more than 92,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants (www.unos.org)
. Each year, approximately 6,000 people die waiting for an organ transplant that would have given them a second chance at life with their families. In addition, each year hundreds of thousands of people benefit from donated tissue that is used for life-saving and reconstructive purposes.
What organs and tissues may be donated?
The most commonly transplanted organs are the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. As for tissues:
- Heart valves are used to replace defective valves; this is particularly life-saving for babies and small children because of the small number of pediatric hearts available for transplant
- Corneas can restore sight to the blind
- Skin is used as a temporary dressing for burns, serious abrasions and other exposed areas
- Bone is used in orthopedic surgery to facilitate healing of fractures or prevent amputation, particularly for cancer and trauma patients
- Tendons are used to repair torn ligaments on knees or other joints
- Veins are used in cardiac by-pass surgery, particularly where the patient cannot provide his or her own veins
Many tissues that cannot be used for transplant can be recovered and used in a variety of research studies to advance cures to fatal diseases like Alzheimerís, diabetes, cancer and others.
Who is responsible for managing the organ donation process?
The District of Columbia is part of the service area of Washington Regional Transplant Consortium, the federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organizations(OPO)
. WRTC is exclusively responsible for facilitating the donation process, and only the OPOís authorized staff have access to both the donor and recipient medical information which makes accurate matching possible. Organ recovery and allocation is regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
How do you determine who receives the organs?
Organs are allocated nationally based on a complex medical formula that is established by transplant doctors, public representatives, ethicists, and organ recovery agencies. UNOS (the United Network for Organ Sharing at www.unos.org
) maintains the list of patients waiting for a transplant. A donor's blood type, tissue type, body weight, and size are matched against patients on the list. If there are multiple matches, priority is given to the sickest patients or, in the case of kidneys, those who have been on the waiting list the longest. Factors such as race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ.
How can my organs and tissues be used for research?
Organs and tissues that are not recovered for transplant may be recovered by the local organ procurement organization (OPO)
for pre-approved medical research if the donor (or family, in lieu of a registry record) authorizes such. All research projects are carefully evaluated by each OPO, and only those projects that offer clear medical benefit and are administered by experienced, reputable organizations are approved.
What if I donít want my organs and/or tissues to be used for research?
Donated organs and tissues may be used for two purposes: transplantation and medical research. The Donate Life DC registry allows you to opt out of donating organs and/or tissues for research.
During the sign up
process, check off the ďDonation LimitationsĒ box and check the ďFor ResearchĒ box under both Organs and Tissues.
If you have already signed up online or via the DMV, you may go to the registry website, click on Update My Donor Profile
, enter your login information, then specify donation limitations. While updating your profile you may also change your password and personal information or remove your name from the Donate Life DC registry.
Can I specify which organs and tissues I donate?
By checking the ďDonation LimitationsĒ box on the sign up
page, the subsequent page allows you to opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissues or donating for medical research. In addition, you can specify that your donated tissue must be used for life-saving or reconstructive purposes only, distributed only to non-profit organizations, or distributed only in the United States.
Can organs be given to people of a different racial group or gender?
In most cases, race and gender are not factors. However, organ size (which can be 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 in those two organs. Optimal tissue matching can happen often 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.
If a family member is in need of an organ at the time of my death, can I specify that he or she is to receive it?
So-called ďdirected donationĒ of an organ to a specific individual is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation. (Organs may not be directed to a group of individuals.) Directed donation is best supported by an advance directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.
If I am registered as a donor, will my medical care be affected?
Medical and nursing care are not affected in any way by your status as a registered donor. Every attempt is made to save your life. In fact, patients must receive the most aggressive life-saving care in order to be potential organ donors. If a patientís heart stops during lifesaving efforts, the organs cannot be transplanted.
Under what circumstances can a person be an organ donor?
In most cases resulting in organ donation, the patient has suffered a traumatic brain injury and brain death. After all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and it is determined that the patientís death is imminent, the patient must remain on ventilator support. The reason for this is that the heart and lungs must continue to function after the patient dies so that the transplantable organs continue to function. In some cases of irrecoverable injury to the brain, if the patientís heart stops beating, some organs other than the heart may quickly be recovered for transplantation.
Under what circumstances can a person be a tissue donor?
Virtually all deceased persons, regardless of cause of death, may potentially be tissue donors. Unlike organ donation, it is not necessary for heart and lung function to be maintained on a ventilator. Once a death is reported to the local recovery agency, protocols require that the family be contacted within several hours regarding the opportunity to donate. This request comes at a time during the familyís grief, but it is done only in the interest of honoring the wishes of the potential donor and helping those in need of donated tissue.
If I suffer a grave injury, how does the process work?
If a patient arrives at the hospital with a grave brain injury, the hospital contacts the local organ procurement organization (OPO)
. While the hospital continues aggressive life-saving efforts, WRTC determines whether the patient is a registered organ and/or tissue donor. This information helps to guide the health care team regarding how the family should be approached should death be determined to be imminent for that patient.
Only if the patient is medically suitable to donate and only after the family has been informed of the patientís imminent death is the opportunity to donate discussed with the family. Only after the family has been presented with documentation of the patientís donor designation (which legally grants authorization to recover organs and/or tissues Ė or, in cases where there is no registration or donor card present, the family grants authorization) does the process move forward.
If I am a donor, what kind of tests do they conduct on my body?
Once death has been declared and authorization is received through the donor registry (or from the family in lieu of a registration), medical professionals must conduct tests to determine whether the patient is suitable to be a donor. Blood tests and other standard medical procedures determine the patientís blood type, kidney and liver function, exposure to transmittable diseases, and tissue typing for the purpose of matching the kidneys to recipients. These tests are medically necessary in order to save as many lives as possible.
I think I may need an organ transplant. How do I get added to the list?
The process of joining the UNOS National Organ Transplant Waiting List begins with your physician referring you to a transplant center
for evaluation. The transplant center will then evaluate you to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a transplant.
Can organs be sold?
Buying and selling organs for the purpose of transplantation is illegal in the United States. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs cannot be bought or sold, and violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. This strict regulation prevents any type of "black market" for organs in the United States. Medically speaking, illegal sales are impossible because recovered organs must be appropriately matched to recipients and distributed according to national policy established by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
Is my family or estate charged for donation?
No. There is no cost to the donorís family for organ and tissue donation. Once death has been declared and authorization is confirmed through the donor registry, or from the family in lieu of the registry, all costs associated with organ and/or tissue recovery are assumed by the organ and tissue recovery organization. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs or tissues in attempt to save the donorís life and funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the donorís family.
Who pays for donated organs?
All costs associated with organ recovery are assumed by the organ and tissue recovery organization. These costs are then reimbursed by transplant centers (who in turn bill private and public insurance plans) and by Medicare, in the case of kidney transplants.
What if my family members are opposed to donation?
Once an individual has made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor and has joined the Donate Life DC registry, that individualís decision is honored. Family members cannot override that individualís decision to donate. At the time when donation is possible, family members will be informed of their loved one's wish to donate and walked through the process so they will know and understand how the recovery agency will carry out the deceased's decision to be a donor. In the event of a loved oneís sudden death, it will ease the familyís pain to already know the wishes of their loved one regarding donation. For this reason we recommend that you share your wishes with your family today
Does my religion allow donation?
With the lone exception of Shinto, all major religions
throughout the world support or permit organ and tissue donation, with most viewing it as a humanitarian act of giving. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of most faiths, and others consider donation a matter of personal choice. Individuals are encouraged to consult their spiritual or religious leader with specific questions.
Does donation affect funeral arrangements?
The body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and the donor's appearance following donation still allows for an open-casket funeral. Once the organ and/or tissue recovery process is completed, the body is released to the donorís family (or, if legally required first, to the local medical examinerís office). From the time the donation process begins, the entire process is usually completed within 24 to 36 hours, and the family may then proceed with funeral arrangements.
Why do you ask for my ethnicity during the signup process?
We ask for each registrant to identify their ethnicity as a way to monitor our effectiveness at encouraging all diverse communities in the District of Columbia to sign up with the registry. Organs are allocated anonymously according to medical criteria, such as blood type and size/weight compatibility. Transplant recipients have no control or advance knowledge of the age, race, gender or ethnicity of their deceased donors. Regardless of who the donor is, all transplant recipients are thankful to receive the gift of life.
Do the donor and recipient families meet?
The identity of all parties is kept confidential. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive such information as age, gender, occupation and state of residence. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of the donorís death. The donor family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive information on improvements to the health of the recipients. The donation agencies facilitate anonymous correspondence and meetings initiated by either the donor family or recipient and only if agreed to by both parties.
Who is responsible for administering the registry?
The Donate Life DC registry is authorized by the District of Columbia (pursuant to the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry Act of 2006) and operated by Washington Regional Transplant Consortium, this areaís federally-designated, non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO)
that serves the District under authorization from the U.S. Department of Heath & Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
What is the registryís relationship to the District of Columbiaís Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?
The DMVís driver license and ID card application and renewal forms include the question: "Do you wish to be an organ and tissue donor?" Checking YES on the form automatically enrolls the applicant in the Donate Life DC registry, and the red heart will be pre-printed on the applicantís driver license or ID card.
How can I be sure my information is kept confidential?
As a state-authorized public service, Donate Life DC adheres to the strictest and most up-to-date guidelines to keep all personal information confidential. Aside from standard information such as name and address, the only sensitive information we require is place of birth, while motherís maiden name and driverís license number are optional. Why collect this information? Because it is absolutely vital that we identify individual registrants with 100% certainty if they should ever be in a position to be an actual organ or tissue donor. We would never want to confuse a patient who is not registered with someone who is.
We assure you that every technical precaution is in place to protect the information from identity thieves. Of the 40+ state donor registries now in operation, there are no reported problems with unauthorized access to personal information.