Frequently Asked Questions

No. Anyone can be considered for donation. At the time of death, donation program professionals will review your medical and behavioral history to determine if you are a candidate for donation. The criteria for donation changes constantly in order to try and meet the critical shortage for those on the waiting list.

No. The process of matching organs with potential recipients is administered through the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN) administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Transplant centers determine the criteria for listing of potential recipients for transplant organs. The UNOS computerized system determines the sequence in which organs are allocated based on various medical and geographical criteria. The computer does not prioritize a recipient based on who they are.

All major religions support organ, eye and tissue donation and consider donation the greatest gift one can give. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of these faiths.

All major religions support organ, eye and tissue donation and consider donation the greatest gift one can give. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of these faiths.

No. Your decision to be a donor will be honored. The Code of Virginia states that family permission is not required when you have documented your decision to donate. While it is still helpful for family members to know what you want, their permission will be sought only if your decision is not registered, either through the DMV or online at Those under the age of 18 can indicate their wishes to donate, but parents and guardians by law must make that decision.

No. Donation costs nothing for the donor or the donor’s family. While the family will receive a hospital bill for any lifesaving efforts that took place for their family loved one, if that patient dies and becomes a donor, all charges related to the donation process are billed to the organ, eye or tissue recovery agency.

There can be an open casket funeral, viewing or other standard memorial after donation. The donor is treated with utmost respect and dignity. The recovery of organs and tissues is conducted under standard, sterile conditions in an operating room, and the body is fully reconstructed once organs and tissues are recovered. The family will make the funeral arrangements in the usual fashion. All funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.

In general, the TV and movie industry sensationalize and distort information about donation and transplantation. Remember these mediums are designed to entertain audiences and are not the best way to learn the facts about any particular subject.

There is no evidence of such activity ever occurring in the United States. According to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, it is illegal to buy or sell human organs in the U.S. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. In addition, a national governing body reviews every organ donation and transplant. Strict regulations prevent any type of "black market" existence in the United States, and the World Health Organization, among others, has strongly condemned such practices abroad.

Living donation is when a living person donates an organ or part of an organ to another person. The living donor may be a relative, friend, spouse or in-law. Or, the donor may be a stranger that has volunteered to help someone else. Living donation usually involves one of these organs: a segment of the liver, the lobe of one lung, a kidney, or a portion of the pancreas. Living donation is an alternative for individuals awaiting organ transplantation from a deceased donor.

In Virginia, all transplant centers who perform living donor transplants also evaluate the potential living donors for patients on that center's waiting list. If medical suitability and willingness is determined, then the donation and transplant takes place at that center.

You should call the center where the patient you know is listed in order to determine whether living donation is an option. You can get more information on living donation standards for both transplant centers and for living donors from the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Virginia Transplant Centers:

  • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Norfolk
  • Henrico Doctors Hospital, The Virginia Transplant Center, Richmond
  • Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Transplant Center, Norfolk
  • University of Virginia Medical Center, Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center, Charlottesville
  • VCU Health System, Hume Lee Transplant Center, Richmond

Not at this time. Currently, a body that is donated for scientific research under the State Anatomical Program cannot be used for organ, eye and tissue donation, except in the case of corneas. However, you should still register your decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor donor in the Donor Registry in case your body is not accepted in the Anatomical Program. Your family can also ask the recovery agency at the time of donation if there may be other whole-body donation options after organ, eye and tissue donation has occurred. Organizations that offer those kinds of services must be approved by Donate Life Virginia, or their activity is illegal in the Commonwealth.

If you choose to donate your whole body to science, you must do so through the University of Virginia, Virginia Transplant Center or the West Virginia Anatomical Board in West Virginia. You cannot participate in this program after having donated organs and tissues.