top of page

Becoming a Donor

Top 5 Reasons You Should Register to be an Organ and Tissue Donor

  1. People truly NEED these lifesaving gifts! 

  2. It's FREE to register and donate your organs and tissues! 

  3. You might never know when you or your loved one might end up on the waiting list.

  4. You can give people the ability to be mobile! 

  5. You can give life, even in death.

Organ and Tissue Donation and Recipient Stories

Adam is from Joplin, MO. He grew up in Union, MO. He was born with cystic fibrosis, affecting both lungs. Adam received a double lung transplant in 2010.

Today Adam is a protection and planning engineer. He enjoys spending time with family and friends and even coaches his son's little league baseball team.


Jenna is from Silex, MO. She was a recipient of a college scholarship to play softball. Then she severely injured her right knee.

Jenna received surgery where donor cartilage and meniscus were used. She is currently healthy and was able to continue her college scholarship.


Jamie was a 29 year old woman from Lebanon, MO. She had chronic medical problems from age 6. At age 29, Jamie was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma and began chemotherapy. She died two weeks after starting treatment.


Jamie was able to donate her corneas.


Skip was a man from Union, MO. He had diabetes, heart disease, suffered multiple strokes, had a collapsed lung and many other health problems.


His wife and 3 children made the decision to donate whatever possible despite the medical history. And because of him, a lady can stand, a man can play the piano again and another man can see.

Myths and Misconceptions

  1. If I am in an accident, and the hospital knows I want to be a donor, they will withhold medical treatment and not attempt to save my life.

  2. Famous or rich people get organ transplants first.

  3. Donation disfigures the body.

  4. My family will be charged if I donate my organs.

  5. My family will receive money for my donation.

  6. My religion does not approve of donation.

  7. My organs will be sold to the highest bidder.

  8. The recipient of my organs and/or tissues will know who I was.

Organ and Tissue Donation FAQs

Who is eligible...

Who can be a donor?

Anyone can decide to become a donor. Your medical condition at the time of death determines what organs and tissues can be donated, not age or chronic illness. Medical professionals evaluate the potential for organ and tissue donation on a case-by-case basis at the time of death.

Can a person be too old or sick to donate?


No. People of all ages may be organ and tissue donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated. A physician will decide whether your organs and tissue can be transplanted.

How to become a donor...

How can I become an organ, eye, and tissue donor?


Consider yourself a potential organ and tissue donor. Your medical condition and the circumstances of your death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated. Once you decide to be a donor, Join the new Missouri Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. Joining the new registry makes your decision known, and relieves your family from the responsibility of making that decision for you.

How do I join the registry?

  • Join Zac's Challenge will walk you through the steps

  • Register your decision online in the new Missouri Organ and Tissue Donor Registry

  • Enroll in the registry when you obtain or renew an instruction permit or driver/nondriver license

  • Complete and mail in a registration form. You may also call toll-free at 888-497-4564 to obtain a copy of the form

  • Sign the back of your driver/non-driver license with a permanent marker — be sure to have a witness sign too

  • Include your decision in an advance health care directive, will or living will

  • Sign and carry a donor card or other signed record

  • Provide any communication witnessed by two adults during a terminal illness or injury (one witness must be a disinterested witness)

How do I make my decision known?


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Inform your family. Your family will be notified that you are a registered donor at the time of your death and that your legal consent to donate is being honored as directed by Missouri Law. You may want to inform them of your decision now so it will not be a surprise to them at a very difficult time. In the absence of a donor designation or if a person is under the age of 18 and is not an emancipated youth, the family will make decisions regarding donation. It is also possible to document your consent for donation in a legal document such as an advance health care directive or living will. However, if your family is unaware of your advanced health care directive or living will, they may be unable to carry out your wish. Talk to your faith leader, friends, and physician about your desire to be a donor.

What if I'm not a Missouri resident?

If you reside or travel to Missouri, you are encouraged to sign up in Missouri's registry in addition to your home state registry. For information on how to enroll in your state, visit Donate Life. Just click on the drop-down menu to choose your state and you will automatically be directed to a site that contains information on how to enroll.

Healthcare information...

Will my decision to donate affect the quality of my medical care?

No. Organ, eye, and tissue recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted and death legally declared. The doctors working to save your life are entirely separate from the medical team involved in recovering organs and tissues after death.

What is an advance directive for health care choices?

An advance health care directive is a legal document that outlines your decisions concerning medical care at or near the time of your death. An advance health care directive can also be legal authority to grant consent for donation, provided you have outlined your decision to donate. Typically, an advance health care directive prohibits the use of intensive care interventions. However, if you plan to be a vital organ and tissue donor, the document must specify that intensive care interventions are only authorized for organ and tissue donation.

Do I have to have an advance directive for health care choices to be a donor?

No. An advance health care directive, for donation, is not required to be a donor.

What is brain death?

Brain death results from a severe, irreversible injury to the brain. All areas of the brain are damaged and no longer function. In situations of brain death, a person cannot sustain their own life and cannot recover, but vital body functions may be maintained in an intensive care unit for a short period. This maintains circulation to the vital organs long enough to facilitate organ donation. People who experience brain death can also donate tissue.

What is cardiac death?

Cardiac death results when the heart and breathing cease to function. All organs and tissues in the body suffer from a lack of oxygen circulation and die. People who experience cardiac death can donate tissue after their death.

What medical conditions prohibit donation?


Each potential donor is evaluated for the presence of conditions or illnesses that might put the transplant recipients at risk. The only, absolute, contraindications to donation are the presence of HIV infection and/or active hepatitis infection. All other medical conditions are evaluated individually at the time of donation. Many people with chronic medical problems have safely donated vital organs and tissue.

Donation Process...

What happens to my donated organs and tissue?

Patients receive organs and tissues based on blood type, length of time on the waiting list, severity of illness, and other medical criteria. A national allocation system ensures the fair distribution of organs in the United States. Social and financial data are not part of the allocation system. People eligible to receive organs are identified based on many factors including blood and tissue typing, medical urgency (severity of illness), time on waiting list, other medical criteria, and geographical location. Race, gender, age, ethnicity, income, or celebrity status are not factors in determining who receives an organ or tissue transplant. Additionally, the law strictly prohibits the buying and selling of organs for transplantation.

Donated organs, eyes, and tissues are given to people who need them the most. Typically, at the local level, the region, and finally all over the country. Under certain circumstances, organs, eyes, and tissues may be sent out of the country to help patients in need.

Buying and selling organs is against the law!

Can I direct a donation?

It is permissible to specify an individual to receive a donated organ. If the organ is a suitable match for a person who is waiting for a transplant, they can receive the transplant as a gift.

You cannot specify a donation based on age, gender, race, or ethnicity. This would bypass the fair allocation system that currently exists. If you have questions about directed donation, please contact Mid-America Transplant Services, Midwest Transplant Network, Heartland Lions Eye Banks, or the Missouri Kidney Program.

Can organs be given to people of different racial groups or genders?

Yes. However, organ size, which is affected by gender, is critical to match a donor's heart, lung, or liver with a recipient. Genetic makeup can be a factor when matching a kidney or pancreas donor and recipient because of the importance of tissue matching. Optimal tissue matching can happen within the same racial and genetic background. For example, an individual of Asian descent may match better with a kidney donated by another Asian versus a different race. However, cross-racial donations can and do happen with great success when matches are available.

Is the registry used for whole-body donation?


No. Signing up for the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry does not grant permission for your body to be donated to medical schools. Organ and tissue donation for transplant or research is not the same as willed body donation. Willed whole-body programs are usually associated with teaching hospitals at major universities, and arrangements must be made in advance directly with the institutions. Note: If you choose to consent to whole-body donation, you will be unable to donate your organs or tissues for transplant.

When must organs be recovered?

Organs are recovered as soon as possible after death is legally declared. Tissue can be removed up to 24 hours after death.

Can my body be donated for the study of science after the donation of organs and tissue?

Yes. But, each academic institution has its guidelines about accepting body donations. Not all academic institutions will accept body donations after organ and tissue donation. If you are interested in body donation it is recommended that you check with the academic institutions you wish to support. They can answer specific questions about organ and tissue donation and pre-arrange the donation of your body for the advancement of science.

Family Issues...

Do I have to tell my family?

No. Your family will be notified of your decision to donate at the time of your death. You are strongly encouraged to inform your family now so it will not be a surprise to them at a very difficult time.

Will donation affect memorial or funeral arrangements?

NO. Generally, donation does not delay funeral or memorial services. Donation does not prevent an open-casket funeral.

Can my relatives make the donation decision?

If you have recorded your decision to be an organ and tissue donor and have not revoked that decision, then your relatives cannot decide for you. In the absence of a donor designation or if a person is under the age of 18 and is not an emancipated minor, the law provides a priority list of who is responsible for making the final donation decision.

bottom of page