Organ and Body Donation

Organs and Tissue

Everyone should be an organ and tissue donor! Thousands of people die every year waiting for organ donations that never come and countless lives are saved and improved through the donation of tissue. Organs for transplant include the heart, kidney, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines. Tissue includes bones, ligaments, tendons, corneas, heart valves and skin.

Most of us won’t end up dying in a way that makes us suitable for organ donation (brain death) and younger organs are always preferable, but most people can be tissue donors at any age or cause of death. Organ and tissue donations are recovered at the hospital and there is no cost to the family. The appearance of the donor in not affected, so viewings are still possible. The body is generally ready for release to the family or funeral home within the day. There is no donation cost to the family, but you will still need to make and pay for cremation or burial.

Make sure your driver’s license or state ID card indicates that you are an organ and tissue donor and register with Donate Life

Get a Pennsylvania Donate Life license plate!

Whole Body

You can donate your entire body for research and training to:

Humanity Gifts Registry www.hgrpa.org, non-profit, Pennsylvania Commonwealth-run. 

  • Your entire body is donated, intact, for research at Drexel, Lake Erie, Penn State, Philadelphia College, Temple, Thomas Jefferson, Geisinger, U of P, and Pitt. 
  • HGR pays $100 towards the funeral home transportation charge. They have contracted with funeral homes that charge $650 within 50 miles of Philadelphia and $400 within 50 miles of Pittsburgh. If you are outside those areas, shop around, as funeral directors can charge from $750 to over $4,000! 
  • HGR pays for the cremation and the ashes are returned within 2 years. 
  • They are typically not interested in bodies that have made organ or tissue donations.Or, you can donate your body to Anatomy Gifts Registry, a not-for-profit research organization. They pay for transportation and cremation. Ashes are returned in 4-6 weeks for a small shipping fee.

Anatomy Gifts Registry www.anatomygifts.org, non-profit in Maryland.

  • Body tissues/parts are harvested and sent where needed for medical research and training.
  • AGR pays for transportation and cremation. 
  • Ashes are returned in 4-6 weeks for a small shipping fee.

There are also a number of for-profit companies that take donations including Science Care, LifeQuest Anatomical, and MedCure. Donated bodies can be used for testing new medical tools and equipment, testing car safety products, studying stages of advanced decay, testing new surgeries, etc. There are no costs to the family. They can be more selective in who they take and how far they’re willing to travel in order to optimize profit. 

There are a number of reasons a body might not be accepted for donation so it is important that you have a back-up plan (communicable diseases like hepatitis B or C, HIV/AIDS, TB, syphilis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, other pandemic diseases, crushing injuries, autopsy, embalming, decomposition, morbid obesity, extensive surgery, etc.). 

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