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DonorCardFrequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I still donate my organs to a member of my family if I join LifeSharers?
A. Yes.  The LifeSharers membership agreement specifically states that you retain your right to donate your organs to a member of your family.

Q. If I join LifeSharers, do my family members get preferred access to the organs of other LifeSharers members?
A. No.  Your family members must join LifeSharers to get preferred access to the organs of other members.

Q. Can children join LifeSharers?
A. Adult members can enroll their minor children by logging into the Member Services page and following instructions there.

Q. I have already registered as an organ donor, checked the organ donor box on my drivers license, or signed an organ donor card.  Why should I join LifeSharers?
A. You have indicated that you want to donate your organs when you die.  By joining LifeSharers you take an additional step -- you indicate that you want to donate your organs to other registered organ donors.  You also increase your chances of getting a transplant if you ever need one, because you'll get first access to the organs of other LifeSharers members.

Q. Is anyone barred from joining LifeSharers due to any pre-existing medical condition?
A. No.

Q. Why are people who don't have organs that are suitable for transplantation allowed to join LifeSharers?
A. No one knows today whose organs will be transplantable in the future.  Surgeons are now routinely transplanting lots of organs they would have rejected just a few years ago.  As the organ shortage continues to grow, many organs that would be rejected today will likely be accepted in the future.  So anyone who is willing to donate their organs when they die is welcome to join LifeSharers.

Q. Is there an age limit for organ donation?
A. No.  Organs have been transplanted from people in their 90's.  No one is too old to offer to donate their organs.

Q. Does joining LifeSharers commit me to donating tissue or to donating my body?
A. No.

Q. Will joining LifeSharers prevent me from getting an organ from a non-member?
A. No.

Q. Why should LifeSharers members get first access to the organs of fellow members?
A. As long as there is a shortage of organs, it's not fair to give organs to non-donors when there are donors who need them.  But people who have agreed to donate their organs when they die get only about 50% of the organs transplanted in the United States.  The rest go to people who haven't agreed to donate.  LifeSharers helps make sure that organ donors are treated fairly.  More importantly, LifeSharers encourages more people to become donors.  More donors means fewer people will die waiting for organs.

Q. Is it fair to move people up the waiting list just because they've agreed to be donors?
A: Yes.  In fact, live donors are already moved up the waiting list.  So are their relatives in some cases.  LifeSharers just does the same thing for people who agree now to donate when they die.  When evaluating fairness, it's also important to consider the wishes of donors.  If you agree to donate your organs when you die, and if you want them to be offered first to others who have agreed to do the same for you, it's not fair (and it's not legal) to disregard your wishes and give your organs to someone else.

Q. Shouldn't organs go first to the people who need them most and have been waiting longest?
A. Organs should go first to the people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.  This increases the number of organ donors, and that saves lives.  As LifeSharers increases the supply of organs everyone benefits, even non-members.  Besides, it's a myth that organs are now given first to the people who need them most or have been waiting longest.  Some of the people who need organs most can't even get on the waiting list because they can't afford to pay for a transplant.  Many who have been on the waiting list a long time are removed from the list because they're considered too sick to get a transplant.

Q. Shouldn't organs be allocated based on medical considerations, not personal characteristics?
A. Non-medical considerations and personal characteristics already play a role in the organ allocation system.  Examples include age, location, time spent on the waiting list, and ability to pay.  By also using donor status in allocating organs, LifeSharers increases the number of donors and saves lives.  LifeSharers respects the medical considerations that are used to allocate organs.  We ask only that those considerations be applied first to organ donors.  This is already being done for live organ donors.  LifeSharers helps make sure it's also done for people who promise to donate when they die.

Q. Don't LifeSharers members accept organs from everyone but preferentially restrict their donation to fellow members?
A: LifeSharers members will give their organs to anyone, and they'll give them first to anyone who is willing to do the same for them.  Non-members can have members' organs if no fellow member who needs them is a suitable match.  The last thing we want is for our organs to go to waste.  By increasing the supply of organs LifeSharers benefits everyone, even non-members.  The administrators of the national organ allocation system defend the right to get an organ without agreeing to give one.  They should defend the rights of LifeSharers members even more vigorously because LifeSharers members have all agreed to donate their organs.

Q. Doesn't LifeSharers create a class of people that gets special consideration in organ allocation?
A. Yes, that is exactly what LifeSharers does.  It's a class that everyone in the United States can join, and there is no cost to join.  We welcome everyone, and we turn no one away.  Organ donors deserve special consideration in organ allocation because without organ donors there would be no organs to allocate.  The special consideration LifeSharers members get is given voluntarily (and legally) by other members, and it is given in exchange for a reciprocal promise.  Anyone who wants to share in this special consideration is welcome to do so.  Membership is free here.

Q. Isn't LifeSharers like agreeing to give organs to a class of people, such as a particular gender, religion, or ethic group?
A. No, LifeSharers is not like that at all.  LifeSharers does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical handicap, health status, marital status, or economic status.  Giving organs first to white people doesn't create more white people.  Giving organs first to women doesn't create more women.  Giving organs first to Italians doesn't create more Italians.  But giving organs first to organ donors creates more organ donors, and that saves lives.

Q. Some people can't donate their organs, so doesn't LifeSharers discriminate against them?
A. No.  Everyone who is willing to donate is welcome to join LifeSharers, whether or not they think doctors will want to use their organs.

Q. Is there a waiting period before a LifeSharers member can get first access to the organs of other LifeSharers members?
A. Yes.  LifeSharers members do not qualify for first access to organs from other LifeSharers members until they have been a member for 180 days.  This waiting period encourages people to join while they're still healthy.  It discourages people from waiting to join only when they find out they need an organ.

Q. How does LifeSharers match organs and recipients?
A. LifeSharers does not match organs and recipients.  This process is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network in the United States.  LifeSharers does not interfere with this process.  Our members just direct that each of their organs goes to the highest ranking qualified LifeSharers member on the UNOS waiting list.  Family members of deceased LifeSharers members can get names of other LifeSharers members on the UNOS waiting list by telephoning LifeSharers at 1-888-ORGAN88 or 1-888-674-2688.  For more details, click here.

Q. How will transplant personnel know that I am a LifeSharers member?
A. LifeSharers is a "donor registry" as defined in the 2006 Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.  Under section 14(a) of the 2006 UAGA, when a hospital refers an individual at or near death to an organ procurement organization, the organ procurement organization must search the records of any donor registries that it knows exists for the geographical area in which the individual resides to ascertain whether the individual has made an anatomical gift.  All licensed and accredited organ procurement organizations in the United States have been notified that the LifeSharers donor registry exists and operates nationwide.  All organ procurement organizations operating in states that have enacted the 2006 UAGA are required by law to search the records of the LifeSharers registry when a hospital refers to them an individual at or near death.  Representatives of licensed and accredited organ and tissue procurement organizations can search the LifeSharers donor registry at www.USRegistries.com.

Q. If I am a LifeSharers member and I die, how does LifeSharers make sure that LifeSharers members get first access to my organs?
A. We rely on your family to make sure that transplant personnel honor your intention to direct your donation first to LifeSharers members.  You should tell your next of kin and your doctors about your LifeSharers membership.  You should also carry your LifeSharers donor card, and mention your LifeSharers membership in your durable power of attorney for health care or medical power of attorney.  Both of these documents instruct your family to telephone LifeSharers for names of members who need your organs and to tell transplant personnel that you want to donate to those individuals.  These documents state your intention clearly:  "It is my express wish that my organs be donated first to members of the LifeSharers network, unless no LifeSharers member is a suitable match.  For each organ of my body donated, I designate as donee that LifeSharers member who is the most suitable match as defined by the criteria in use by LifeSharers at the time of my death."  This means each organ from a LifeSharers member should be offered first to the highest ranking qualified LifeSharers member on the UNOS waiting list.  For more details on how this works, click here.

Q. Will transplant personnel honor the wishes of LifeSharers members to donate their organs first to other members?
A. It is their job to do so, according to UNOS, which wrote this in a 2009 news release:  "The role of transplant professionals is to ensure that any donor offer is handled properly and that the safety and interests of the donor and donor family are protected. This is true in the rare instance of directed donation as well as the commonplace, non-directed allocation of organs to transplant candidates."  Also, overriding the legal directions of an organ donor could create significant legal liability and lots of unfavorable publicity.  Transplant personnel are careful to avoid both.  The entire transplant system relies on the good will of organ donors, so transplant personnel have every reason to honor the legitimate wishes of organ donors and no reason not to.  If transplant personnel try to talk your family members out of directing your donation to other LifeSharers members, then your family should insist that your wishes be carried out.  Your family should also call LifeSharers for assistance at 1-888-ORGAN88 or 1-888-674-2688.

Q. Does LifeSharers maintain a waiting list of members needing organs?
A. UNOS maintains the national waiting list.  We maintain a list of LifeSharers members who are on the UNOS national waiting list.  If you are on the UNOS waiting list for an organ, let us know by sending an email to info@lifesharers.org.  You should also tell your doctors that you are a LifeSharers member, and ask them to make sure their records include this information.

Q. What is UNOS’ position on LifeSharers?
A. UNOS says “Our formal position is that UNOS does not endorse LifeSharers' approach.  However, UNOS does not intervene in directed donation if it is allowed by state law.”

Q. Is directed donation allowed by state law?
A. Yes.  The laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow directed donation.  Most of these laws permit donation to "a designated individual" for transplantation.  LifeSharers members designate the individual they want to receive each of their organs, through language that is included in the LifeSharers membership agreement and shown on the LifeSharers donor card.  In the handful of states where donation to "a designated individual" is not permitted, LifeSharers members give their organs to their fellow members' surgeon or hospital, which is permitted.  According to UNOS, "Directed donation is allowed by state law (although some restrictions may apply in certain states) and is a legal alternative to OPTN/UNOS allocation policy. As such, directed donation requests are honored as long as the recipient is available and medically suitable to receive the donation."

Q. Is directed donation allowed by federal law?
A. Yes.  The 1999 "Final Rule" (42 CFR Part 121) governs operation of the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.  Section 121.8 deals with organ allocation.  It includes the following language about directed donation: "Nothing in this section shall prohibit the allocation of an organ to a recipient named by those authorized to make the donation."

Q. What is UNOS' position on giving organ donors preferred access to donated organs?
A. The UNOS Ethics Committee issued a white paper on this subject in 1993.  The white paper is available here.

Members Q. How many LifeSharers members are there?
A. There are 15,617 members in the LifeSharers network.

Q. How many LifeSharers members are on the national waiting list?
A. There are 143 LifeSharers members on the national waiting list. Of these, 131 have qualified for preferred access to the organs of other LifeSharers members.

Organ Number
of
Members
Kidney103
Pancreas0
Kidney/Pancreas6
Liver20
Heart4
Lung6
Heart/Lung4
Intestine0
Total 143 

Total may be less than sum due to members waiting for multiple organs.

Q. How many LifeSharers members have died and donated organs?
A. We have not yet had a member die in circumstances that would have permitted recovery of his or her organs.

Q. Can I cancel my LifeSharers membership?
A. Yes.  You can cancel your membership at any time via the LifeSharers web site or by sending an email to info@lifesharers.org.

Q. Is LifeSharers accessible to people without internet access?
A. Yes.  Anyone can join LifeSharers by filling out an enrollment form and mailing it to us.  Call or write us here for enrollment forms, or download them here.

Q. Is LifeSharers accessible to people who don't speak English?
A. Yes.  On our web site we provide the capability to translate information about LifeSharers into other languages.  Click here for more information.  Our printed brochures are available in English and Spanish.  Click here for more information.

Q. Does LifeSharers provide financial assistance to transplant recipients?
A. No, but several other organizations do.  Click here for a list.

Q. How is LifeSharers funded?
A. We rely on charitable contributions from members (and others) to fund our operations.  LifeSharers is a qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so contributions to LifeSharers are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.  Click here to learn more about how to support our efforts.  LifeSharers also occasionally applies for grants from charitable foundations.  If you know of an appropriate potential grant source, please email us at info@lifesharers.org.

Q. How can I change the email address where I receive the monthly LifeSharers newsletter?
A. You can do that here.  Or you can email us at info@lifesharers.org.

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