Tissue Donation Facts

  • Tissue donation can greatly enhance a recipient's quality of life.
  • Tissues that can be donated include bone, heart valves, veins, skin, ligaments and tendons. These tissues can be recovered up to 24 hours after a death has occurred.
  • Tissue donation is not the same as organ donation. Organs are kidneys, lungs and intestines, as well as the heart, pancreas and liver.
  • A tissue donor has died a biological death, meaning the person's heart and lungs have permanently stopped functioning.
  • An organ donor has died suddenly, possibly through accidents, and is declared "brain dead" in a hospital.
  • An estimated 24,000 people are declared brain dead each year. Only 2-3 percent of all deaths meet the criteria for organ donation.
  • Each year, there are about 20,000 tissue donors. Nearly a million tissue transplant surgeries are performed every year in the United States. It is estimated that one in 20 Americans will need some type of tissue transplant.
  • One tissue donor may enhance the lives of more than 50 recipients.
  • Donated bone is used for reconstruction procedures and in oral surgery. Donated heart valves provide recipients with increased heart function. And donated skin benefits burn patients and helps prevent infection.
  • Skilled professionals surgically recover tissue under aseptic conditions.
  • Anyone, regardless of age, is a potential tissue donor. Older people comprise the largest single group of transplant recipients.
  • There is no charge to the family for donation. Funeral costs remain the family's responsibility.
  • Donation should not interfere with customary funeral practices such as open casket services.
  • Most religions endorse donation as a charitable act.
  • Under federal law, hospitals must offer the option of donation to families of potential donors.
  • The National Organ Transplant Act makes it illegal to sell human organs and tissues. The law permits agencies to charge reasonable fees for the cost of recovery.