Over 72,000 candidates are currently on the organ donation waiting list. Organs from a single donor can save the lives of up to 14 people.
More than 50 years ago, the world’s first successful organ transplant was performed. Since then, many advances in medical technology have allowed more organs and tissues to be transplanted successfully each year.
Individuals interested in becoming organ or tissue donors have two options, they can either donate at the time of their death, or they can become a living donor. Some donations, such as bone marrow or a kidney, can be made by a living donor.
- Living donors are usually between the ages of 18 – 60. They must be physically fit, in good general health, and free from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and heart disease.
- At death, organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, and intestines can be donated. Tissues that can be donated include blood vessels, bone, bone marrow, connective tissue, corneas, heart valves, middle ears, and skin.
A computerized organ and tissue matching system matches donors to eligible recipients by blood and tissue typing, organ size, medical urgency, waiting time, and geographic location.
The steps to becoming an organ and tissue donor are outlined in the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and all 50 states have adopted some version of this act. Anyone 18 years of age or older, and of sound mind, can become a donor when they die. People under age 18 require parental or guardian consent to be a donor. A Uniform Donor Card must be completed and can indicate the donation of all organs and tissues or only specific organs and tissues.
If you choose to be an organ/tissue donor, it is important to tell others of your decision, especially immediate family members, friends, and physicians. Some state laws require a family member’s consent along with your donor card. In addition to obtaining a donor card and notifying others, it’s also important to indicate donor status on a driver’s license, and in other documents, such as a Living Will.
HealthChoice recognizes and supports the importance of organ and tissue donation through coverage of the donation and transplantation of organs for HealthChoice members. When a HealthChoice member is certified for transplant surgery, charges for organ harvesting are considered eligible expenses. In the case of living donations, non-member donor medical expenses that are related to the donation procedure are eligible for coverage for up to 90 days following the procedure and are subject to the primary health plan coverage for coordination of benefits and certification. Additionally, HealthChoice members who act as donors to other Plan members or individuals are eligible for coverage, subject to certification and all Plan provisions. For more information on HealthChoice coverage of organ and tissue donation, contact HP Administrative Services, LLP at 1-405-416-1800 or toll-free 1-800-752-5218. TDD users call 1-405-416-1525 or toll-free 1-800-941-2160.
Remember, organ and tissue donation provides an opportunity for each of us to save and enhance the lives of others.
Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. and violators are punished by prison sentences and fines. Visit the official government website for organ and tissue donation and transplantation, sponsored the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services at organdonor.gov
Sources: US Department of Health and Human Services, Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, United Network for Organ Sharing