The donation process begins when a hospital contacts the recovery agency to report a death. Federal law requires hospitals to contact an organ, eye or tissue recovery organization in the event of a death or imminent brain death. The recovery agency coordinator will make an initial evaluation of the medical suitability of the individual for organ, eye and/or tissue donation. In nearly all cases, to be eligible for organ donation, the individual must have been declared brain dead and must be maintained on a ventilator. In special circumstances the option of organ donation may be possible following cardiac death. Eye and tissue donation, on the other hand, takes place after either brain death or cardiac death, and ventilator maintenance is not necessary.
If the initial evaluation shows the individual to be suitable for organ, eye and/or tissue donation, the recovery agency coordinator will access the Ohio Donor Registry to check if the decedent was registered as a donor. If the individual had not registered, the coordinator will discuss the option of donation with the individual's family. Upon obtaining documentation of consent, either by first-person consent (Ohio Donor Registry) or by the individual's family, all costs associated with the donation are assumed by the organ and tissue recovery agencies.
For organ donation, a thorough medical evaluation and social history are obtained, to help determine which organs are suitable for transplantation. During this time, the individual remains on the ventilator and is supported with fluids and medications to keep oxygen and blood flowing to the organs. The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) is contacted by the OPO and the organs are matched to the most appropriate recipients through a national database. Organs are placed based on size, blood type, need and region. The best recipient for each organ must be located before the surgical recovery procedure begins, due to the limited amount of time organs are viable between recovery and transplant.
The organ recovery process is a surgical procedure conducted by transplant surgeons who ensure the donor is treated with utmost respect and dignity. Once the organs are ready to be removed, the ventilator is disconnected. Once the surgery is complete, the organs are transported to transplant centers where the recipients identified by UNOS are waiting to receive their transplants.
Eye and Tissue Donation
For eye and tissue donation, a thorough medical and social history evaluation also takes place. Further evaluation may include review of medical records, blood tests, cultures, a physical examination of the individual, and review of autopsy findings. The evaluation ensures that the donor is suitable for donation.
Eye and tissue recovery is a sterile, surgical procedure and is performed by specially trained personnel. At all times, the donor is treated with great dignity and respect. Once eye and/or tissue recovery has been completed, appropriate reconstruction occurs to ensure a natural appearance.
Following organ, eye and/or tissue recovery, depending on the circumstances of the death, the body is released to the coroner/medical examiner or to the funeral home of the family's choice. The recovery agencies provide follow-up information to the donor's family regarding the outcome of the donation. Names and locations of the organ and/or tissue recipients are kept confidential, and the identity of the donor is not revealed to the recipients. Confidential communication between donor families and recipients may be facilitated by the recovery agencies.
Read Tony's story
Tony Huesman exemplified the difference organ donation can make in someone’s life. At the age of 20, he was given three months to live. Thanks to the generous gift from an organ donor, Tony was able to touch hearts and souls for 31 additional years.
Read Debbie's story
"If more people sign up, more lives will be saved and fewer families will lose a father, husband, grandfather or loved one because a transplant didn't come soon enough"