Tissue donation is a very personal decision. On one hand, you have a person who needs a donation; on the other, the person who is deciding to donate either their tissue or the tissue of a deceased person. Tissue donation can improve the quality of life for some and save lives for others. For example, donated skin can improve scarring from a disfiguring burn or replace bones and ligaments destroyed in an accident.
Tissue Donation – How to Register
To donate tissue, the deceased needs to be a registered tissue donor or have a legally authorized person who can give permission for the donation. It is great to plan ahead because you never know what may happen in live. A local tissue organization gets a referral from a hospital, local care center or medical examiner to determine if the person who died is suitable to donate tissue. The donation has to begin within 24 hours of death.
Tissue Donation – Many Tissue Types
Many types of tissue last for differing lengths of time for use in burn cases, ligament repair, bone replacement, etc. (American Association of Tissue Banks, 2010) according to Donate Life. Tissue is donated by approximately 30,000 people every year. Each of those donors can help more than fifty people who need, corneas, skin, ligaments, bones, and other types of tissue. The main tissue classifications are
- Corneas that cover the front of the eye can restore sight.
- The whole eye for reconstructive or cosmetic surgery.
- Skin aids healing for severe burns, injuries or disease for people who suffer from a disfiguring injury or disease.
- Veins restore circulation in legs, hearts, and other vessels.
- Heart valves can replace valves that are defective.
- Upper body bones rebuild themselves and can prevent amputation and create better mobility and structure.
If you would like to become a donor, you may do so by indicating that preference on your driver’s license or state ID card. Make sure to tell your family that you have done so. It does not cost anything to donate your tissues and there is no age limit if the donation is suitable. Selling your tissues is illegal as decided in The National Organ Transplant Act.
Tissues may be donated by living people as well as after death. Because the tissues regrow or are a result of surgery or childbirth, many are helped by those donations. Some examples are amnion after childbirth, skin after angioplasties, and bone after hip and knee replacements. A living person can donate tissue more than once because the tissue regenerates.
In addition to donating tissue to be used by a person who needs it, the tissue may be donated for research. The tissue will be used to study various diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, immune systems, and diabetes to name a few. There are so many people waiting for donations that it hardly seems that the number donating will ever equal the number needed. See the chart below to compare needs and donations as of the end of 2013.
Data is from optn.transplant.hrsa.gov and OPTN/SRTR Annual Report.
** Data include deceased and living donors.
Please do consider being a done – it will help so much.