There are various myths about organ and tissue donation.  Let’s get straight to the facts.

Enrollment
Organ & Tissue Donation
Medical Concerns
Financial Concerns
Family and Social Issues

Enrollment

How do I enroll in the Mississippi Donor Registry?
There are three ways to enroll in Mississippi’s Donor Registry.

  • Register online at donatelifems.org,
  • Register when you renew your Mississippi driver’s license at a Mississippi Department of Public Safety examiner’s station
  • Fill out a written form where a MORA registration table is present

What’s the difference in having a “heart” on my license and having a
Mississippi Organ Donor Card?

They are one in the same.  If you register at the Department of Public Safety, they will signify your registration by adding a small red heart to the bottom of your license.  If you register at DonateLifeMS.org then you will receive a Mississippi Organ Donor Card.

***Insert picture of guy with MS DL with heart on bottom***

 Who can enroll in the Mississippi Donor Registry?

  • Mississippi residents who are at least 18 years old

Who can be an organ, tissue and eye donor?

  • Young and elderly
  • No one should eliminate themselves as a donor pre-existing medical conditions
  • Each potential organ, eye and tissue donor is evaluated on an individual basis for suitability

What organs and tissue can be donated?
Organ donation includes:

  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Small Intestine

Tissue donation includes:

  • Corneas
  • Eyes
  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Vessels
  • Heart valves

Why is it important to ensure your family is aware of your decision to donate?

Sharing your decision to become a donor is just as important as making the decision. Joining the Mississippi Donor Registry is more than just an expression of interest in becoming a donor. It is consent for organ, eye and tissue donation upon your death. Losing a loved one is an emotional time for family members. If they are aware of your decision, it will avoid confusion on end of life decisions.  It’s also important to tell family members about your decision because medical and social history is needed at the time of death, and the next-of-kin will be approached for that information.

Can my family override my decision to donate?

Once you enroll with the Mississippi Donor Registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ, eye 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 they will be prepared to cooperate with the health care team about your medical history.

Where is my information held?

With the Mississippi Donor Registry, your desire to donate is stored in a secure, confidential database.

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. Did you know that recently there has been a 93-year-old kidney donor, and 83-year-old liver donor and a 99-year-old cornea donor! 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.

Can I enroll my children?

The Mississippi Donor Registry only accepts enrollments on residents 18 years of age and older. Until residents are 18 years old, their parents (or legal guardians) will make the final decision about organ, eye 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 is not enrolled without his or her knowledge or consent?

Of the 53 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 and the personal information requested during the enrollment process. Family members are also consulted at the time of donation and will be able to verify the donor’s information at that time.

I have an advance directive authorizing donation of my organs. Should I also enroll?

Yes, take the opportunity to enroll. 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 Mississippi 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.

Is it possible to restrict my donation from specific groups?

Federal law does not allow you to restrict your donation to or from specific groups or classes of individuals.

What if something should happen to me while I am traveling out of Mississippi?

All matters concerning organ, eye and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each state’s or country’s respective laws. While your Mississippi Donor Registry enrollment may not serve as legally binding consent for donation outside of Mississippi, 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 recovery agency.

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Organ & Tissue Donation

What is organ, tissue and eye donation?

Organ, tissue and eye donation is the process of recovering organs, tissue and eyes 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. Another 50 – 75 lives may be improved through tissue donation. The vision of two people can be renewed through eye donation.

How many people need donated organs and tissue?

There are currently more than 112,000 people in America waiting for organ transplants. Each day approximately 18 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 and corneal grafts that are used for life-saving, sight restoring and reconstructive purposes.

Who is responsible for managing the organ donation process?

Most of the state of Mississippi is served by the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency (MORA). MORA is responsible for facilitating the donation process. 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) 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.

Can I specify which organs and tissues I donate?

You may choose to donate only specific organs or tissues, including eyes. By choosing to donate any or all transplantable organs and tissues, including eyes, you will be helping the most people who can thrive from your gift. If you would like to include specific requests regarding your gift, you may type them on the enrollment form under the “Comments” section.

If a family member or friend is in need of an organ, can I specify that he or she is to receive it?

Specifying that an organ go to a specific individual is called “directed donation”. Directed donation is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation and must be directed to a recipient who is actively listed with a transplant program. (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.

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Medical Concerns

If I am registered as a donor, will my medical care be affected?

No! 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.

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 patient’s 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 patient’s heart stops beating, some organs may be recovered quickly for transplantation.

Under what circumstances can a person be a tissue or eye donor?

Virtually all deceased persons, regardless of cause of death, may potentially be tissue or eye 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 a few hours regarding the opportunity to donate. This request comes at a time during the family’s 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 and eyes. For people who choose to enroll in the Mississippi Donor Registry, their family is spared the added burden of deciding what to do. All that is required of the family at that point is to answer some questions about current medical history.

 If I experience a potentially-fatal brain injury, what happens at the hospital?

People with these injuries receive the most aggressive care available in the hospital. If it becomes clear that a patient is not surviving the brain injury, however, the OPO can search for their name in the Mississippi Donor Registry. If the patient has registered as a donor, his or her wishes will be followed, and the family will be asked to provide a current medical history. If the patient has not registered as a donor, a donation counselor will give the family information about donation and allow them to make the donation decisions for the patient. This is a great advantage in making a decision to join the Mississippi Donor Registry— to avoid leaving your family with a difficult decision at a traumatic time.

 If I am a donor, what kind of tests will 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 patient’s blood type, kidney and liver function, exposure to transmittable diseases, and tissue typing for the purpose of matching kidneys to recipients. These tests are medically necessary in order to save as many lives as possible.

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Financial Concerns

Can organs, tissues or eyes be sold?

No. Buying and selling organs, tissue and eyes for the purpose of transplantation is illegal in the United States. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs, tissue and eyes cannot be bought or sold, and violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. This strict regulation prevents any type of “black market” for organs, eyes and tissue in the United States. Medically speaking, illegal sales are impossible because recovered organs, tissue and eyes 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 donor’s family for organ, tissue and eye 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, tissue and eye recovery are assumed by the organ, tissue and eye recovery organizations. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs or tissues in attempt to save the donor’s life and funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the donor’s estate.

Who pays for donated organs?

All costs associated with recovery are assumed by the organ tissue and eye recovery organizations. 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.

Will my family be paid for the recovery of my organs and tissue?

No. Donor families do not receive payment for organ, tissue and eye donation. In the United States, it is illegal to sell human organs, tissue or eyes.

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Family and Social Issues

What if my family members are opposed to donation?

Once an individual has made the decision to be an organ, tissue and eye donor and has joined the Mississippi Donor Registry, that individual’s decision is honored. 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 one’s sudden death, it will ease the family’s 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.

Is donation compatible with my religious beliefs?

Though the answers vary from one denomination to another, research has found that the vast majority of religions do support donation and transplantation.

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, tissue and eye recovery process is completed, the body is released to the donor’s family (or, if legally required first, to the local medical examiner’s 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.

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 donor’s 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.

Will your family know who gets your organs and tissue?

No. Confidentiality is provided both for the donor families and the recipients. The recovery agency can act as a liaison if the recipient wishes to correspond anonymously with the donor family, or vice versa. It is only after extended anonymous communication, and the agreement of both parties, that the names are released.