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Tissue Donation

How does tissue donation work?

How are tissues removed and what about funeral arrangements?

Is there a cost?

How is tissue used?

Who can donate?


Tissue donation includes the donation of bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, fascia lata (the thin covering of the muscles), heart valves, veins and arteries. Tissue can be used in a variety of life-enhancing surgeries that helps countless people every day.

The majority of tissue donors are previously healthy people who have died unexpectantly. Every donor is thoroughly screened for health issues that might adversely affect the recipients. Nationally, thousands of people could donate tissue every day. Unlike organ donors, tissue donors do not have to be on a breathing machine (ventilator) prior to their deathÖthey donít even have to be in a hospital.

Questions about Tissue Donation:

How does tissue donation work?

After a patientís heart stops beating and they are pronounced dead then the Alabama Organ Center (AOC) is called by the hospital, the coroner, hospice personnel, the family, etc. The AOC will evaluate the patient for medical suitability and then speak with family about their donation opportunities.

How are tissues removed and what about funeral arrangements?

After consent for donation has been obtained, the donated tissues are recovered by skilled medical professionals. The tissue recovery takes place in a timely manner. The AOC will work with the family and the funeral home to meet the wishes of the family. The donor is treated with care and respect. Donation should not interfere with funeral arrangements, including open casket services.

Is there a cost?

No, there is no financial cost to donate. The family is responsible for the care of their loved one until the time of death and for their funeral expenses. All donation-related expenses are paid by the Alabama Organ Center, including reasonable charges associated with embalming following donation if extra charges are incurred. If the tissue recovery occurs at the Alabama Organ Center Recovery Facility in Birmingham, the Alabama Organ Center will pay for the cost of transportation from the location of death to the in-state funeral home of the familyís choice.

How is tissue used?

Tissue can be used in a variety of life-enhancing surgeries. Bone may be used to replace diseased or damaged bone, i.e. from cancer, trauma, etc. Bone may also be used in back, neck and dental surgeries. Tendons and ligaments are used to replace or strengthen damaged tendons or ligaments. These tissues enable transplant recipients to walk and run again. Heart valves are used to replace damaged or diseased heart valves. The veins and arteries are used to restore vital blood flow to peopleís hearts and other parts of their bodies.

Who can donate?

Most healthy individuals are able to donate tissue. Many people think they are too old or not a candidate to donate because of a health issue. Often, this is not true. If you want to donate, please indicate your wishes on Legacy, Organ & Tissue Registry, and share your wishes with your family. The AOC will evaluate for medical suitability at the time of death.

Tissue donation is a wonderful gift. One personís donation of tissue can help close to 100 different people.