At or near the time of a patient's death, a physician, nurse, or other designated representative from the hospital contacts Carolina Donor Services. They provide confidential information to determine if the patient is a potential donor. Then CDS’ staff searches for information to determine what type of donations can be made.
There are two types of death considered for donation: Circulatory Death and Brain Death.
Persons who die because their heart stops beating (circulatory death) can be evaluated for tissue and eye donation, and in some circumstances, they can be considered for kidney, liver and pancreas donation.
This means that many more people can be tissue and eye donors than organ donors, because circulatory death is more common than brain death. For tissue and eye donation, a time of death must be determined to have been within the previous 12 hours.
Brain death is the irreversible and complete end of all brain and brain stem function. In the U.S., less than one percent of all deaths are brain deaths.
If the patient is medically eligible, family support coordinators go to the hospital to review the patient’s chart and meet with the doctors and the patient care team. The recovery team members are carefully trained to work with families experiencing a wide range of emotions after a loved one’s death, and meet with family members at the appropriate and most sensitive time to discuss donation as part of what will come next.
If the patient has registered as a donor, through the online registry and/or the DMV registry, we explain first person consent and the donation process to family members, answer questions and provide additional support that the family may need. If the patient has not registered as a donor, we offer the option of donation to the family and request their consent.
After reviewing consent, we ask the family for current medical information about the potential donor. This review of the patient’s medical/social history involves questions like those asked of a potential blood donor. Tests are conducted to determine which organs are suitable for transplant. Medical information about the donor is sent to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for matching with potential recipients.
All patients accepted into a transplant program are registered with UNOS. When a patient is added to the list, their medical profile is entered and stored in the UNOS network. When a donor organ becomes available, each patient in the pool is matched against the donor characteristics. The computer then generates a list of patients ranked in order based upon medical and scientific criteria.
The match is made according to:
- Body Size
- Blood Type
- Time Waiting
- Immunological Status
- Medical Urgency
Once all organs have been matched, transplant teams arrive at the donor hospital to recover organs. The entire process can take up to 24- 36 hours. Organs are recovered in a dignified surgical procedure and the body is carefully restored, ensuring that the body is not disfigured.