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According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no defined cutoff age for organ donors. The Mayo Clinic also advises to not “prematurely disqualify yourself” as an organ donor based on your age. In a story told on organdonor.gov, a 92-year old man named Carlton who died of a brain hemorrhage successfully donated his liver to a 69-year woman suffering from end-stage liver disease. “Age is no barrier to sharing life” according to organdonor.gov. In fact, one out of three people who donated organs in 2016 was over the age of 50.
Depending on the type of donation, organ donors can be living or deceased. Most organ and tissue donations (4 out of 5) are from deceased donors, according to organdonor.gov. This article will focus on donations from deceased organ donors.
Why be an Organ Donor?
You can save or improve as many as 50 lives by being an organ donor after you die, according to the Mayo Clinic. According to organdonor.gov, you can donate up to eight lifesaving organs including your
- two lungs
- two kidneys
Over 116,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ transplant and every day an estimated 20 patients die because of lack of organ donors.
In addition to organs, deceased organ donors can donate:
- sclera of the eye
- heart valves
- tendons, cartilage and ligaments
These donations will be used to restore sight, cover burns, repair hearts, and mend damaged connective tissue in recipients.
Unfortunately, not everyone who wishes to be an organ donor will be eligible to become one. According to organdonor.gov, only three in 1,000 people die in a way that allows them to be an organ donor. According to organtransplants.org, most deceased organ donors are brain dead, with mechanical ventilation and medications keeping their heart beating and blood flowing to their organs. The most viable organ donors are victims of head trauma, stroke, and aneurysm according to dmv.org.
An alternative to being an organ donor is to be a whole-body donor to medical research or education. Learn more about body donation at the Mayo Clinic.
How do I become an Organ Donor?
The first step to becoming an organ donor is to register. You can find your state’s organ donation registry on organdonor.gov. Most state’s organ donation happen at a state level, so you will be redirected to the state registry website. As an alternative to signing up to be an organ donor online, you can usually register at the local motor vehicle department. You also should tell your family and friends that you are registered as an organ donor so they can support your wishes. You may even wish to carry an organ donor card in your wallet.