Organ, Tissue, and Whole-Body Donation
Donating organs so that others live is the ultimate in recycling and reuse. Donate Life America estimates that eighteen people die every day while waiting for a transplant. Organs that can be transplanted include kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, pancreas, and intestines. Skin and bone can also be donated, as can corneas. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a nonprofit company that works under contract with the Department of Health and maintains the database for those needing organs.
Some organs can be donated without anyone dying. Living donors provide thousands of whole organs such as kidneys or pieces of organs like livers every year. Donors are usually closely related family members. But donations to extended family and friends are not uncommon. Anonymous donations are also possible.
Not just anyone can receive an organ. Patients must have a doctor and transplant team evaluate their condition and attitude and recommend their inclusion in the database. People who are unwilling to give up detrimental habits like smoking and excessive drinking may not be eligible to receive a transplant. In addition, a donor's family must allow the organs to be removed for transplant. In the United States and many other countries, it is illegal to buy and sell organs.
Whole-body donation is another alternative. You may choose to donate your entire body for medical research or education. Whole-body donations are usually run by state governments and universities. You can find a data-base of whole-body donation programs online at www.med.ufl.edu/anatbd/usprograms.html. Generally, health issues don't impact whether a person can donate his or her body. Organs that cannot be used for transplant may still be suitable for research.