How Donation Works
Tissue donation can include corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissue.
The process works like this:
- A patient with a severe brain injury is admitted to the hospital and every attempt is made to treat and save that person’s life.
- The patient declines, has irreversible brain function, requires a ventilator and – after evaluation, testing and documentation – is declared brain dead.
- A referral is made to Gift of Life to evaluate the suitability of the patient for donation.
- The Michigan Organ Donor Registry is checked to determine whether that patient intended to someday donate organs and tissue. If the patient is a registered donor, first-person consent exists, allowing the donation to proceed. If the patient’s name is not on the state database, his or her family is offered the opportunity to donate the patient’s organs and tissue.
- If the family declines, the process is complete. If the family gives consent, the donor is kept on a ventilator and stabilized with fluids and drugs. Tests determine whether each organ is healthy and suitable for transplantation.
- Potential organ recipients are identified according to blood type, need, other medical matching criteria and other protocol of the United Network for Organ Sharing, a national organization that handles the organ matching and placement process.
- Surgical teams arrive at the hospital, and the donor is moved to the operating room on the ventilator.
- Organs are removed, cooled and preserved with special solutions. Teams immediately return to their transplant centers with the organs to perform the transplant surgery.
- Tissue donation takes place after the organs are removed.
- The donor is released to the family and funeral arrangements proceed. Donation does not interfere with open-casket memorials.
- Gift of Life later provides the donor’s family with information about the recipients of their gift or gifts.
In some instances, donation can occur with a patient who is not brain dead but has no hope for recovery. With the family’s consent, machine support is withdrawn and a doctor pronounces that the heart has stopped and the patient has died. Organs may then be recovered quickly for transplantation. This process is known as donation after circulatory death.
Gift of Life Michigan offers the possibility of whole body donation for medical research. A decision on suitability for such a donation comes after an individual's death and in consultation with family members.