Organ & tissue donation


Currently more than 90,000 people nationwide are registered on the national waiting list for a lifesaving organ.  This includes approximately 8,000 New Yorkers. Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the list.  Nationwide, approximately 16 people die each day waiting for a life-saving organ.  A single donor can save the lives of eight people through organ donation and improve the lives of countless others with tissue donation. 

When an individual becomes an organ donor, they donate life.

Donation definitions

  • Organ Donation - The donation of an organ from an individual who has been declared brain dead. The organs are transplanted into individuals based on need through a national waiting list.
  • Tissue Donation - The donation of tissue (bone, eyes, fascia, heart valves and vessels) from an individual who has suffered cardiac or brain death.
  • Living Donation - The donation of organs from a living donor to an individual with a matching blood and/or tissue type.
  • Consent for Donation - An approval from the family of a organ or tissue to donate life. Even if a patient has signed a donor card, the family still needs to consent.
  • Gift of Life - The ultimate gift to give an individual in need of a transplant. Donating one's organs or tissue is donating life. 

New York Organ Donor Network

An organ procurement organization (OPO) is an organization designated by the federal government to coordinate the consent and retrieval of donated organs and tissue. The OPO for the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island and the five lower counties of Hudson Valley is the New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN). This network serves 11.8 million people and is the largest OPO in the country. The NYODN is committed to improving the lives of the 8,000 individuals waiting for organs and the countless individuals who benefit from tissue donation. The NYODN also works with hospitals, the public and individuals to improve communication and education on the topic of organ donation. 

Initiatives to improve donation

Northwell Health is currently taking the following steps to improve organ donation:

  • Member of the Health Resource and Service Administration (HRSA) “Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative”
  • North Shore University Hospital and Franklin Medical Center were awarded HRSA’s “Medal of Honor” for maintaining a 75% consent rate for donation
  • Service Improvement Coordinating Group for Donation
  • Representatives from each hospital meet bi-monthly to share best practices in organ and tissue donation
  • Donor Council
  • A hospital-based group of healthcare professionals who have are committed to donation initiatives
  • Education
  • Ongoing education for physicians, nurses, ancillary hospital staff and the community

Criteria for donation

Deaths and imminent deaths must be referred to the New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN) regardless of age or diagnosis. Cardiac deaths must be referred and evaluated for tissue donation.

An organ donor can also be a tissue donor, after the solid organ donation occurs. Tissue includes bone, eyes, fascia, heart valves and vessels

Brain death

Brain death is the total, irreversible cessation of all brain functions, including the brain stem. In brain death there is no longer any possibility of thinking, feeling or governing even the most primitive activities of life, such as breathing.

Organ donation after cardiac death

Generally, organ donation takes place after a patient has been declared brain dead. However, in 2002, the NYODN offered two families the option of donation after cardiac death. This allows the recovery of livers, kidneys and tissues from patients who have suffered a devastating non-recoverable illness or injury and are ventilator-dependent, but do not technically meet the criteria to be declared brain dead. This type of donation is offered to families only after the decision has been made to terminate the patient from life support. The increase in donation after cardiac death mirrors the findings of Swiss researchers last summer that suggested patients who received kidneys from donors "without a heartbeat" did just as well as those who received an organ from a donor who was brain dead.

Register to donate

Sign up to give the gift of life. Register to become an organ, eye and tissue donor.

Email us to learn more

Transplant Center

Our experts can field questions about organ and tissue donation.

Email the Transplant Center