General Question

seVen's avatar

When exactly can they cut you up and distribute all your organs if you have that 'donor' approval on your drivers license?

Asked by seVen (3461points) October 29th, 2008

Is it when your heart stops or your brain stops? And who gets to have your organs first a lawyer/doctor who needs it or a farmer/poor person?

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22 Answers

shilolo's avatar

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shilolo's avatar

(Real answer) First, you have to be brain dead. That is, no functional brain activity. Your heart will still be pumping however, otherwise your organs would fail, immediately. Second, the organ transplant team will assess whether you can donate, and coordinate the actual donation (harvest of organs). Third, various organs are harvested, but traditionally, they are assigned on a need basis only (doesn’t matter who you are, supposedly).

Hobbes's avatar

As far as I understand, there’s a waiting list for organ transplants, and in theory it just depends on how far up the list you are.

seVen's avatar

I heard that they don’t care for you as much when you are a ‘donor’ on the accident scene arrival as if you would not be a donor, there were many stories I read that people were still breathing but unconscious and they rushed them to opened them up so that someone that’s filthy rich and thus payed a hefty amount of money to pass “the list”, so he/she might have a fresh brand new organ.

syz's avatar

Wow. Ours is such a litigious society, I doubt there’s any instance in which a harvesting team would cut corners. Much less the moral and ethical implications of that statement.

Hobbes's avatar


“Myth 3 – If you have a donor card and you are in an accident, doctors will not work to save your life.

Unfortunately, distrust in the medical community expresses itself in many ways. This myth is a widely held belief or fear in our society. It’s important to understand that emergency personnel are in no way connected to transplant programs, nor do they have anything to gain, financially or otherwise, by letting a patient die in order to remove organs or tissues. Another commonly overlooked fact is that emergency personnel in hospitals rarely, if ever, see any documentation of an individual’s desire to be a donor; donor cards and driver licenses simply do not make it into the hands of doctors caring for accident victims. The police typically have this information and hold onto it or return it to the victim’s family.”

shilolo's avatar

@seVen. Never, ever, ever happens. I’ve been a part of many an organ donation situation (as a doctor), and this cannot and will not happen. No one is “rushed” into a donation. It takes time to determine what the donor’s underlying disease state is, whether someone is truly brain dead, what is their hepatitis/HIV (and other) status, etc. While most donors are from accidents and gun shots, many other donors are from other causes (strokes, heart attacks, etc). There is NEVER any rushing. EVER.

lollipop's avatar

seVen, I don’t mean to be ‘critical’ and please don’t take personal offense, but I think you could have worded your question to sound a little bit ‘nicer’ and not quite so ‘gross’ ....or is it cause of Halloween coming up? Just curious

Lightlyseared's avatar

@seVen It makes no odds whether you carry a donor card or not. The team of doctors that care for you will be a completely different team to any that are involved in organ harvest or transplant. Also you should rememeber that when anyone dies the relatives can be apoached and asked about donation regardless of any donor card you carry. In the UK a donor card only represents a general desire of the individual to donate their organs not a legally binding contract the wishes of relatives are alway taken into account.

Secondly organs are distruibuted on a combination of need, waiting list and suitability. For example you may be at the very top of the waiting list but if the next organ that comes available is physically too big for your body then you won’t get it.

Thirdly I would strongly urge you to consider donating. An organ donation can (and does) change a person’s life. Not only does it allow them too a live longer an more active and fulfilling life but also touches them deeply in a spirtual sence. Also, you never know when you are going to need a transplant your self so it’s always a good idea to ensure the available pool is as large as possible.

While we’re at it you should sign up to become a bone marrow donor. Donation (when required) is no more complicated than giving blood and can save the life of someone with leukaemia where no other treatment would.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I’m no expert, but I always thought your family had to sign a consent form for your organs to be donated, in some cases, even if you have a donor card. My mom used to work in the ER, and that was the impression I always got. She always said donor cards are useless. Maybe someone can enlighten us on the issue of family consent in the US with links to credible sources.

augustlan's avatar

@LaCG: I’ve heard that, too. Even if it’s not true, I’ve also heard that stubborn family members can over-ride the donor’s wishes, or at least delay it long enough as to make the organs unusable. That’s why it’s always a good idea to make your family aware of your intentions!

jholler's avatar

I’m not a Dr, but as someone who is frequently part of the first arriving emergency care on scene, donor status never even enters our minds. We’re trying to keep you breathing, not checking your wallet for a donor card.

jessturtle23's avatar

Not sure when it comes to giving what the requirements are but when my mom got her liver transplant they had a thing called a meld score that would determine who got on the transplant list and who got the organs that were donated. That is only for livers. I have heard of doctors advising patients on ways to raise their meld score so they could get in for a liver transplant if they were just a couple points off. There are lots of criteria to be eligible for a transplant so people don’t have to worry about alcoholics or drug users getting new livers. My mom actually received a liver from a man that was over ten years older than her and she was 49. I know that she thinks about him all the time and so do I and we are very thankful to his family and especially him for being an organ donor.

tocutetolive90's avatar

as far as i know from my medical training. you must be complete dead. so your brain and heart must be gone. they will not take your organs until your pronounced dead. so instead of taking you to the morgue. they will take you take to get the organs needed removed.

syz's avatar

Which medical training is that? Is it somehow lacking in commas?

And to repeat the doctor’s answer above:

“First, you have to be brain dead. That is, no functional brain activity. Your heart will still be pumping however, otherwise your organs would fail, immediately. Second, the organ transplant team will assess whether you can donate, and coordinate the actual donation (harvest of organs). Third, various organs are harvested, but traditionally, they are assigned on a need basis only (doesn’t matter who you are, supposedly).”

jholler's avatar

Yay, the punctuation police are here!!

hoosier_banana's avatar

Here’s some evidence that being an organ donor is great all around.

From Post Secret. “As A Police Officer, I Decide If I’ll give you a ticket based on whether or not you have a Donor Sticker.”

gailcalled's avatar

I thought that the guy with the chainsaw sat in the passenger seat of the ambulance and waited for the EMT’s wink wink.

(Proper punctuation makes one’s writing clear. So does the correct proper use of antecedents for nominal pronouns.So do sentences. Is that a crime?)

jholler's avatar

No, it’s not a crime, but neither is tact.

deaddolly's avatar

i hate punc police.

my sticker is on my license, but I’m not sure if I want my organs spread all over. still deciding
no lectures, please. my organs, my choice.

Strauss's avatar

John Prine has an excellent take on this!

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