Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Signing Up

  • Who can sign up on the Donate Life DC Registry?
    The Donate Life DC registry allows District of Columbia residents who are at least 18 years of age to register their authorization to donate all or specific organs and tissues upon their death. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 can join the Donate Life DC registry, but until the designated donor is 18 years old, parents or a legal guardian will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time.
  • Can my family override my decision to donate?
    Once you sign up with the Donate Life DC registry, your donor designation grants authorization for organ and tissue recovery. Should you be in the position to donate, your next of kin will be presented with documentation of your registration but will not have the power to override your decision. It is important to tell your next of kin or healthcare power of attorney of your wishes so that they may be prepared to cooperate with the health care team about your medical history.
  • Why register? Isn’t it enough to have a heart on my driver license or carry an organ and tissue donor card?

    If you have a donor designation on your D.C. driver’s license, that information will be securely stored in the Donate Life DC registry. It is recommended that all residents check the registry to make sure that the information is correct and up-to-date.

    A donor designation on your D.C. driver’s license and/or a signed and witnessed donor card does grant authorization for organ and/or tissue recovery, but due to the suddenness and emotion surrounding the circumstances, both documents are rarely available at the time a family is approached regarding donation.

    With the Donate Life DC registry, your desire to donate is stored in a secure, confidential database. Should your death result in the opportunity for you to be a donor, an official record of your donor designation will be readily available and cannot be overturned by your family. Thus, should you be medically suitable to donate, your wishes will be respected and your family will be relieved of the burden of making a decision on your behalf.

  • Does my age, pre-existing medical condition, or sexual orientation prevent me from being a donor?
    Do not rule yourself out. The fact that you want to be a donor is something to be celebrated, and we encourage you to register your decision with pride. Age, most medical conditions or sexual orientation do not exclude you from being a suitable organ and tissue donor. (In fact, there have recently s been a 93-year-old kidney donor, and 83-year-old liver donor and a 99-year-old cornea donor!) There are very few automatic rule-outs, and due to medical advancements, even some of these may change over time. In the event you are in a position to be an actual donor, medical specialists will evaluate your medical history to determine your suitability to donate. If you wish to be a donor, sign up!
  • Can I sign up my children?
    Due to federal privacy laws prohibiting the collection of personal information for individuals under age 13, the Donate Life DC registry is unable to accept registrations for children 12 and under. Until registrants and non-registrants alike are 18 years old, their parents (or legal guardians) will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time. Your wish to make that decision for your children should be shared with your family.
  • How do you ensure that someone does not sign up another person without his or her knowledge or consent?
    Of the 45+ state donor registries now in operation, to date there have been no reported problems with persons registering people other than themselves. The authenticity of the registrant can be determined using the date/time of the registration, personal information requested during the signup process and the confirmation email address if used. Family members are also consulted at the time of donation and will be able to verify the donor’s information at that time.
  • Does the registry allow me to sign up to be a marrow or living organ donor?
    We are pleased to include on the registry links to information about blood, marrow and living kidney donation here but this is a registration for deceased donation wishes only.
  • Does my registration grant consent for whole body donation?
    Signing up with Donate Life DC 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. Please note: should you choose to consent to whole body donation, you will be unable to donate your organs or tissues for transplant.
  • I have an advance directive authorizing donation of my organs. Should I also register with the Donate Life DC registry, or will the advance directive be enough?

    Due to the rapid and emotional nature of events surrounding sudden death, often times families do not have time to check legal documents prior to being approached about donation. However, since the Donate Life DC registry is viewed in all potential donation cases prior to approaching the family, recovery personnel are able to share proof of registration with family members at the time donation is discussed with them.

    Each state has its own laws regarding consent for organ donation. Some states have registries while others rely on donor cards or advance directives. If consent is not given through either of these means, all states defer to next-of-kin to make the donation decision on behalf of their loved one.

  • I have a friend serving as my health care proxy, with a signed power of attorney. Can that person authorize donation for me?
    Yes. The holder of a health care power of attorney may make donation decisions. However, if you are registered on Donate Life DC, that registration is a first person authorization, and your proxy will be presented with that information at the appropriate time. It is best to discuss all your end of life decisions with your proxy at the time you sign the power of attorney.
  • Is it possible to restrict my donation from specific groups?
    Federal law does not allow you to restrict your donation to or from specific classes of individuals. By checking the “Donation Limitations” box on the first signup page, the subsequent page allows you to opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissues or having your organs and/or tissues donated for research.
  • How do people in other states sign up? Is there a national registry?
    There is no national registry. All matters concerning organ and tissue donation are under the jurisdiction of each state’s respective laws. On Donate Life DC you are shown the option of going to the Virginia registry or to the Maryland registry or to to click on the state in question.
  • What if I don’t have an email account or access to a computer?
    If you do not have an email account, you can get a free email account by visiting or you may also use the email address of a relative. If you do not have access to your own computer, you may sign up at your neighborhood library. If you do not have an email account, you will not receive a confirmation that you have signed up on the registry.
  • I don’t want to sign up online. Is there any other way to register?

    In addition to online registrations, you may sign up with the Donate Life DC registry when you apply for or renew your driver license or ID card through the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

    If you are unable to sign up online or via the DMV, you may sign a donor card to indicate your wishes. However, you should share your decision with your next of kin or health care proxy in case the donor card is not available at the time you become a candidate to actually donate.

After You Sign Up

Donation Basics

  • Who can be a donor?
    Anyone can register their decision to save lives by joining the Donate Life Georgia organ, tissue and eye donor registry. If you are under 17 years of age, your parents will make the ultimate decision, but you can let them know your decision to be a donor and register at
  • How do I join the registry?
    When obtaining or renewing a driver license at a Division of Driver Services office, register yourself online HERE. If you have an iphone with iOS 10, you can register from your phone using the Health app.
  • How do I remove myself from the registry?
    If you want to remove yourself from the registry, click HERE.
  • How does the donation process work with the registry?
    All Georgia hospitals are required to contact LifeLink of Georgia when they identify a potential donor. When LifeLink has been contacted, the Registry is checked to see if the potential donor has registered to be an organ, tissue and/or eye donor. If the potential donor is registered, this information will be shared with the family, and they will be consulted about the donor’s medical/social history. LifeLink then evaluates the medical suitability of the donor, manages the medical care of the donor until transplantation can take place, and consults the national database to match the donor and patients in need of a transplant based on medical criteria, such as blood and tissue type. Finally, LifeLink coordinates transportation of the lifesaving gifts to surgeons who will perform the transplants.
  • I want to be a living donor, how?

The Donation Process

  • Who is responsible for managing the organ donation process?
    The District of Columbia is part of the service area of Washington Regional Transplant Consortium, the federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organizations(OPO). WRTC is exclusively responsible for facilitating the donation process, and only the OPO’s authorized staff have access to both the donor and recipient medical information which makes accurate matching possible. Organ recovery and allocation is regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  • How do you determine who receives the organs?
    Organs are allocated nationally based on a complex medical formula that is established by transplant doctors, public representatives, ethicists, and organ recovery agencies. UNOS (the United Network for Organ Sharing at maintains the list of patients waiting for a transplant. A donor’s blood type, tissue type, body weight, and size are matched against patients on the list. If there are multiple matches, priority is given to the sickest patients or, in the case of kidneys, those who have been on the waiting list the longest. Factors such as race, gender, age, income or celebrity status are never considered when determining who receives an organ.
  • How can my organs and tissues be used for research?
    Organs and tissues that are not recovered for transplant may be recovered by the local organ procurement organization (OPO) for pre-approved medical research if the donor (or family, in lieu of a registry record) authorizes such. All research projects are carefully evaluated by each OPO, and only those projects that offer clear medical benefit and are administered by experienced, reputable organizations are approved.
  • What if I don’t want my organs and/or tissues to be used for research?

    Donated organs and tissues may be used for two purposes: transplantation and medical research. The Donate Life DC registry allows you to opt out of donating organs and/or tissues for research.

    During the sign up process, check off the “Donation Limitations” box and check the “For Research” box under both Organs and Tissues.

    If you have already signed up online or via the DMV, you may go to the registry website, click on Update My Donor Profile, enter your login information, then specify donation limitations. While updating your profile you may also change your password and personal information or remove your name from the Donate Life DC registry.

  • Can I specify which organs and tissues I donate?
    By checking the “Donation Limitations” box on the sign up page, the subsequent page allows you to opt out of donating specific organs and/or tissues or donating for medical research. In addition, you can specify that your donated tissue must be used for life-saving or reconstructive purposes only, distributed only to non-profit organizations, or distributed only in the United States.
  • Can organs be given to people of a different racial group or gender?
    In most cases, race and gender are not factors. However, organ size (which can be affected by gender) is critical to match a donor 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 in those two organs. Optimal tissue matching can happen often within the same racial and genetic background. For example, an individual of Asian descent may match better with a kidney donated from another Asian versus a different race. However, cross-racial donations can and do happen with great success when matches are available.
  • If a family member is in need of an organ at the time of my death, can I specify that he or she is to receive it?
    So-called “directed donation” of an organ to a specific individual is legal, but it must be done at the time of donation. (Organs may not be directed to a group of individuals.) Directed donation is best supported by an advance directive or may be granted by next of kin at the time of donation.

Medical Questions

  • If I am registered as a donor, will my medical care be affected?
    Medical and nursing care are not affected in any way by your status as a registered donor. Every attempt is made to save your life. In fact, patients must receive the most aggressive life-saving care in order to be potential organ donors. If a patient’s heart stops during lifesaving efforts, the organs cannot be transplanted.
  • Under what circumstances can a person be an organ donor?
    In most cases resulting in organ donation, the patient has suffered a traumatic brain injury and brain death. After all life-saving efforts have been exhausted and it is determined that the patient’s death is imminent, the patient must remain on ventilator support. The reason for this is that the heart and lungs must continue to function after the patient dies so that the transplantable organs continue to function. In some cases of irrecoverable injury to the brain, if the patient’s heart stops beating, some organs other than the heart may quickly be recovered for transplantation.
  • Under what circumstances can a person be a tissue donor?
    Virtually all deceased persons, regardless of cause of death, may potentially be tissue donors. Unlike organ donation, it is not necessary for heart and lung function to be maintained on a ventilator. Once a death is reported to the local recovery agency, protocols require that the family be contacted within several hours regarding the opportunity to donate. This request comes at a time during the family’s grief, but it is done only in the interest of honoring the wishes of the potential donor and helping those in need of donated tissue.
  • If I suffer a grave injury, how does the process work?

    If a patient arrives at the hospital with a grave brain injury, the hospital contacts the local organ procurement organization (OPO). While the hospital continues aggressive life-saving efforts, WRTC determines whether the patient is a registered organ and/or tissue donor. This information helps to guide the health care team regarding how the family should be approached should death be determined to be imminent for that patient.

    Only if the patient is medically suitable to donate and only after the family has been informed of the patient’s imminent death is the opportunity to donate discussed with the family. Only after the family has been presented with documentation of the patient’s donor designation (which legally grants authorization to recover organs and/or tissues – or, in cases where there is no registration or donor card present, the family grants authorization) does the process move forward.

  • If I am a donor, what kind of tests do they conduct on my body?
    Once death has been declared and authorization is received through the donor registry (or from the family in lieu of a registration), medical professionals must conduct tests to determine whether the patient is suitable to be a donor. Blood tests and other standard medical procedures determine the patient’s blood type, kidney and liver function, exposure to transmittable diseases, and tissue typing for the purpose of matching the kidneys to recipients. These tests are medically necessary in order to save as many lives as possible.
  • I think I may need an organ transplant. How do I get added to the list?
    The process of joining the UNOS National Organ Transplant Waiting List begins with your physician referring you to a transplant center for evaluation. The transplant center will then evaluate you to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a transplant.

Money Matters

  • Can organs be sold?
    Buying and selling organs for the purpose of transplantation is illegal in the United States. Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1984, human organs cannot be bought or sold, and violators are subject to fines and imprisonment. This strict regulation prevents any type of “black market” for organs in the United States. Medically speaking, illegal sales are impossible because recovered organs must be appropriately matched to recipients and distributed according to national policy established by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
  • Is my family or estate charged for donation?
    No. There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ and tissue donation. Once death has been declared and authorization is confirmed through the donor registry, or from the family in lieu of the registry, all costs associated with organ and/or tissue recovery are assumed by the organ and tissue recovery organization. Hospital expenses incurred before the donation of organs or tissues in attempt to save the donor’s life and funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the donor’s family.
  • Who pays for donated organs?
    All costs associated with organ recovery are assumed by the organ and tissue recovery organization. These costs are then reimbursed by transplant centers (who in turn bill private and public insurance plans) and by Medicare, in the case of kidney transplants.

Family / Social Issues

  • What if my family members are opposed to donation?
    Once an individual has made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor and has joined the Donate Life DC registry, that individual’s decision is honored. Family members cannot override that individual’s decision to donate. At the time when donation is possible, family members will be informed of their loved one’s wish to donate and walked through the process so they will know and understand how the recovery agency will carry out the deceased’s decision to be a donor. In the event of a loved one’s sudden death, it will ease the family’s pain to already know the wishes of their loved one regarding donation. For this reason we recommend that you share your wishes with your family today.
  • Does my religion allow donation?
    With the lone exception of Shinto, all major religions throughout the world support or permit organ and tissue donation, with most viewing it as a humanitarian act of giving. Transplantation is consistent with the life-preserving traditions of most faiths, and others consider donation a matter of personal choice. Individuals are encouraged to consult their spiritual or religious leader with specific questions.
  • Does donation affect funeral arrangements?
    The body is treated with great respect and dignity throughout the process, and the donor’s appearance following donation still allows for an open-casket funeral. Once the organ and/or tissue recovery process is completed, the body is released to the donor’s family (or, if legally required first, to the local medical examiner’s office). From the time the donation process begins, the entire process is usually completed within 24 to 36 hours, and the family may then proceed with funeral arrangements.
  • Why do you ask for my ethnicity during the signup process?
    We ask for each registrant to identify their ethnicity as a way to monitor our effectiveness at encouraging all diverse communities in the District of Columbia to sign up with the registry. Organs are allocated anonymously according to medical criteria, such as blood type and size/weight compatibility. Transplant recipients have no control or advance knowledge of the age, race, gender or ethnicity of their deceased donors. Regardless of who the donor is, all transplant recipients are thankful to receive the gift of life.
  • Do the donor and recipient families meet?
    The identity of all parties is kept confidential. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive such information as age, gender, occupation and state of residence. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of the donor’s death. The donor family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive information on improvements to the health of the recipients. The donation agencies facilitate anonymous correspondence and meetings initiated by either the donor family or recipient and only if agreed to by both parties.

Management of the Registry

  • Who is responsible for administering the registry?
    The Donate Life DC registry is authorized by the District of Columbia (pursuant to the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry Act of 2006) and operated by Washington Regional Transplant Consortium, this area’s federally-designated, non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) that serves the District under authorization from the U.S. Department of Heath & Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • What is the registry’s relationship to the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?
    The DMV’s driver license and ID card application and renewal forms include the question: “Do you wish to be an organ and tissue donor?” Checking YES on the form automatically enrolls the applicant in the Donate Life DC registry, and the red heart will be pre-printed on the applicant’s driver license or ID card.
  • How can I be sure my information is kept confidential?

    As a state-authorized public service, Donate Life DC adheres to the strictest and most up-to-date guidelines to keep all personal information confidential. Aside from standard information such as name and address, the only sensitive information we require is place of birth, while mother’s maiden name and driver’s license number are optional. Why collect this information? Because it is absolutely vital that we identify individual registrants with 100% certainty if they should ever be in a position to be an actual organ or tissue donor. We would never want to confuse a patient who is not registered with someone who is.

    We assure you that every technical precaution is in place to protect the information from identity thieves. Of the 45+ state donor registries now in operation, there are no reported problems with unauthorized access to personal information.