The Need for Organs and Tissue

More than 13,200 families said “yes” to donation last year, including more than 6,800 living donors.

As medical technology advances, the number of people awaiting a transplant will continue to increase. More donors are needed to help give these patients a second chance at life.

Why are organ and tissue donors needed?

There are currently more than 121,000 Americans on a waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. Every 13 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant list. Sadly, an average of 17 people die every day while waiting, simply because there are not enough organs available for transplant. Despite the numerous initiatives in law and the continuing advances in medical technology, the donor shortage remains a national public health crisis.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

One single donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organs that can be donated include: heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestines. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, tendons, bone and heart valves.

Who can donate?

Organ and tissue donors range from newborns to senior citizens. Most donors are people in good health who die suddenly, possibly after an accident, and are declared “brain dead.” In this condition, brain function has permanently ceased but the heart and lungs continue to function through the use of artificial life supports. Individuals can also donate specific organs while they are still alive. These “living donors” are able to donate a kidney or a portion of their liver or lung, often to a relative.

How can you become a donor?

It is important for you to know how to make sure that your decision to be a donor is carried out. First, visit The laws that govern donation vary, and will help you learn how to become a donor in your state. Next, tell your family of your decision to donate. Even if you carry a signed donor card, are registered on your state’s donor registry or have a donor designation on your driver’s license or state identification card, your decision to donate, along with your medical history, is discussed with your family. At that point, your family is going through a time of great emotional turmoil and grief. Make their decision easier by letting them know in advance of your wishes.

For more information about organ and tissue donation, please visit: or call: 800-355-7427

In Spanish, visit: or call: 800-485-VIDA (8432)