Frequently Asked Questions

A: There is a severe shortage of organ donations in the United States, and here in California. Nationally eighteen people die each day waiting for a transplant. Right now more than 110,000 people are on the waiting list, more than a third of them will die before an organ can be found. The numbers are growing. The waiting list is increasing at a rate of 1,000 people a month. Another name is added every 13 minutes. In the SDS area, more than 1,300 people are on the waiting list, yet annually only 60 – 80 people donate one or more organs up on death.
A: Now you can sign up at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when applying for or renewing your drivers license or I.D. card or sign up today online at to ensure your wishes are honored. To sign up in Nevada visit: Your personal information will be kept secure and confidential. It will be accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel.
A: Yes, absolutely. The process of donation takes place only after two physicians declare you brain dead, using strict neurological examinations. Your family is then consulted regarding donation. Brain death occurs in patients who have suffered severe injury to the brain, such as a motor vehicle accident, a gunshot wound to the head, or blow to the head. (In the U.S. about 15,000 people die such a death each year, but only 8,000 actually become organ donors). As a result of the injury, the brain swells and obstructs its own blood supply, causing brain tissue to die, and cessation of brain function. This condition is irreversible. However, the vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestine and kidneys) can be kept viable for a few days, if supported by artificial mechanical means, i.e., a ventilator. Brain death is an established medical and legal diagnosis of death.
A: The approximate maximum time for the following organs/tissues is: Heart-lung (4-6 hours); Lung (4-6 hours); Heart (4-6 hours); Liver (24 hours); Pancreas (24 hours); Kidney (72 hours); Corneas (14 days); Bone (5 years); Skin (5 years); Heart valves (10 years).
A: You give consent by signing up online at Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, in California: and in – Nevada at: Once you sign up with the Registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ and tissue recovery. Should you be in the position to donate, your next of kin will be presented with documentation of your registration and consulted regarding donation, but will not have the power to override your decision.
A: The law (Omnibus Reconciliation Act passed in l986) was implemented due to the growing list of transplant candidates, and the tremendous shortage of organs. To meet this need, the law states that any hospital that receives government funding is required to give families the option of donation.
A: All major religions in the United States either support or permit organ donation. Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish faiths support donation as an act of human benevolence in keeping with religious doctrine. They believe that this is essentially a gift of life to another person. Meanwhile, the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam believe that organ donation is a matter of individual conscience. If you have questions in this regard, we encourage you to consult with your religious leader.
A: No. All costs related to organ and/or tissue donations will be covered by the organ and tissue donor program. You will not be financially responsible for any aspect of the donation process. However, funeral arrangements and costs remain the responsibility of the relatives or persons in charge of the estate.
A: Recipients are matched with available organs based on strict criteria that include: medical urgency, time on the waiting list, geographic proximity, and blood and tissue type. A national waiting list of recipients is maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit service under contract with the federal government, located in Richmond, Virginia. UNOS was established under the National Organ Transplant Act of l984 and serves transplant centers, physicians, and donor organizations nationwide.
A: No. It is a crime to buy or sell organs under state law and the National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507). Anyone convicted of violating this law is subject to a maximum fine of $50,000, and/or a maximum of five years imprisonment. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs) such as Golden State Donor Services, which coordinate all activities associated with donation, (including distribution), are nonprofit agencies certified, and monitored by the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
A: Vital organs for transplantation (8 of them) include the heart, liver, pancreas, intestine, 2 kidneys, and 2 lungs. Also, tissues can be recovered, including corneas (to help blind people see), bone (to help those who might otherwise face amputation), skin (to help burn patients heal), heart valves (many times used for newborns with heart problems), tendons and veins.
A: Anyone is eligible, from newborns to 80 year-olds. However, everyone who wants to be a donor should sign up on the Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry (, or through the DMV when you apply for or renew your drivers license in Nevada go to: Transplant coordinators along with transplant surgeons evaluate each potential donor, and the viability of each organ. They do a thorough evaluation of a donor’s social and medical history as well as blood tests. But, upfront, everyone is a potential donor, and is encouraged to sign up on the Registry.