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You can be an organ donor

A smiling woman wearing sunglasses outdoors.

July 1, 2020— Twenty Americans die each day waiting for an organ transplant. But it doesn't have to be that way.

According to organdonor.gov, 90% of adults support organ donation. However, only 60% of us are signed up to be organ donors.

Some of that disconnect may be due to faulty beliefs about who can be an organ donor. For example, did you know you don't have to be in perfect health? Even if you have an illness, you may be able to donate your organs or tissues.

Here are answers to some other common questions about organ donation:

How many people are currently waiting for a transplant?

As of March 2020, nearly 112,000 men, women and children were on the national transplant waiting list. Another person is added to that list every 10 minutes.

Who's eligible to be an organ donor?

There are no age limits on who can donate their organs. All adults and, in some states, people under 18 can be organ donors. People of all ages—from newborns to seniors—have been donors.

Whether or not you can donate depends on the condition your organs are in, not your age.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

These vital organs can be donated:

  • Heart.
  • Kidneys.
  • Pancreas.
  • Lungs.
  • Liver.
  • Intestines.
  • Hands.
  • Face.

Tissue that can be donated include:

  • Corneas.
  • Skin.
  • Heart valves.
  • Bone.
  • Blood vessels.
  • Connective tissue.

Bone marrow, stem cells, umbilical cord blood and peripheral blood stem cells also can be donated.

And some organs and tissues can be donated by living donors.

Can you choose what to donate?

When you register online to become an organ donor, most states will give you the option to choose which organs and tissues you want to donate. Or you can choose to donate everything that can be used. Learn more at your state registry.

Will my family be billed for donation costs?

No. Any costs related to donation are paid by the person receiving the donated organs or tissues.

Isn't it enough that I have an organ donor card?

No, there's no guarantee you'll have your card with you or that your health care team will find it if you die in circumstances that make donation possible. But they will check the state registry. It's the best way to make sure your wishes are known.

You can also make sure your driver's license says you want to be an organ donor. But it's still best to register with your state, just to be sure.

It's also a good idea to let your family know your wishes. Telling them how you feel about organ donation can help prepare them to make sure your wishes are carried out.

How do I register online with my state?

Go to organdonor.org/register and select your state to find its registry. Then just follow the instructions.

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