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Organ and Tissue Donation

Organ and Tissue Donation - Departments & Programs, UW Medical Foundation, Patient Resources, Social Work Services Quick Guide, Social Work Manual, Death & Dying


When a patient's clinical status is consistent with the definition of imminent death (see below) OR when a patient dies and a prior report of imminent death has not been made to the OTD, the nurse caring for the patient is responsible for contacting the UW Organ Procurement Organization (OTD) at 1-866-UWHC-OTD (1-866-894-2676) and notify the attending physician. UWHC Policy 4.21 (V)(B)(1). At UWHC, only a requestor who has completed complete Certified Requestor Training by the OPO (Organ Procurement Organization) can approach families to discuss donation. Learn more at uwhealth.org.

Frequently Asked Questions by Patients

Donation and Transplantation: How Does It Work?

Making a decision about donation comes, for many families, at a time of great stress, anxiety and sadness. By understanding the facts about donation, you can educate and prepare your family about your decision to become a donor, and they will find peace knowing they've carried out your wishes.

Who can be a donor?

Anyone can register to be a donor, even if you have pre-existing medical conditions. At the time of passing, the appropriate donation professionals will review the patient's medical and social histories and review current medical tests to determine eligibility for donation.

What can be transplanted?

Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and intestine.

If I am a donor, will doctors still try to save my life?

 Organ recovery takes place only after all efforts to save a patient's life have been exhausted and death has been declared. The medical team treating the patient is a completely separate team from the recovery and transplant teams.

Is there a cost to the donor or their family?

There is no monetary cost to the donor's family or estate. Donation is a gift and all of the costs associated with recovery are taken care of by the recovering agency.

Will my religious beliefs interfere with my wish to be a donor?

All of the widely-known religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and many others fully support donation and consider it an act of charity. If you are unsure about your religion's position on donation, please consult your faith leader.

Will donation disfigure the body or interfere with funeral arrangements?

Donation does not cause disfigurement to a donor's body. Organ donation is done through a delicate surgical procedure that can be covered by clothing. Recovery agencies work closely with funeral service providers to ensure that there are no untimely delays. Families can still have an open-casket funeral and/or viewing if that is their wish.

Do wealthy or famous people receive transplants before others?

No. The system is designed to make sure that the person who is the best possible match, is in the most medical need and has been waiting the longest is the person who will be offered the transplant first. The length of time it takes to receive a transplant is governed by many factors, including blood type, tissue type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness and other criteria. Factors such as race, gender, age, income or social status are not considered when determining recipients.

Where can I get more information about registry?

Brain Donation

The Wisconsin Brain Donor Program (WBDP) is a repository for brain tissues collected for the purpose of research. The WBDP, which is part of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, collaborates with the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI) and other interested organizations and individuals.

If you wish to donate:

 For further information about donation, please contact: (608) 256-1901, ext. 11767; or email brainbank@medicine.wisc.edu. For assistance with a donation, particularly in the evening or on weekends, please call our 24-hour pager: (608) 265-7000, ext. 5332.