Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Facts About Organ Donation


Sisters Carol and Tracey Playfair recover together after surgery. Tracey donated a kidney to save Carol's life.
Sisters Carol and Tracey Playfair recover together after surgery. Tracey donated a kidney to save Carol's life.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Every day in the United States, an average of 18 people die while awaiting organ transplants because of a critical shortage of donors.

During the past 10 years, the transplant waiting list has more than doubled with more than 98,000 men, women and children now awaiting heart, kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplants.

Tens of thousands of others are in need of donated corneas to restore sight; bone and other tissues to repair injured or diseased bones and joints; skin to heal burns and heart valves to replace diseased valves.

Each person who decides to become an organ and tissue donor has the potential of saving and enhancing more than 50 lives and taking up to eight people off the organ transplant waiting list.

One donor can:

  • Donate kidneys to free two people from dialysis treatments needed to sustain life.
  • Save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants.
  • Give sight to two people through the donation of corneas.
  • Donate bone to help repair injured joints or to help save an arm or leg threatened by cancer.
  • Help burn victims heal more quickly through the donation of skin.
  • Provide healthy heart valves for someone whose life is threatened by malfunctioning or diseased valves.

More to Explore