We honor life through donation.

Become an organ, eye & tissue donor today.

Common Questions

Q: Can someone with HIV donate organs and tissues?
Q: Can someone with COVID-19 donate organs and tissues?

At this time, Gift of Life Michigan is not facilitating donations from any potential donor known to have an active case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. People who have recovered from COVID-19 may be able to donate some organs or tissues, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Can someone who dies at home be a donor?

Organ donation is not logistically possible when someone dies at home, but tissue and eye donation may be. Gift of Life Michigan should be contacted as soon as possible to determine if there is an opportunity to donate. Our 24/7 donor services center can be reached at 866-500-5801. We will work with your family to make arrangements for the donation surgery, if medically possible.

Q: Will doctors work as hard to save my life if they know I’m a donor?

Yes, absolutely. This is perhaps the most common myth about organ donation. When a patient arrives at the hospital, the number one priority is to save his or her life. Doctors and other medical personnel have both a moral and legal obligation to give their patients the best care possible. Organ donation is not considered until every effort to save the patient’s life has been exhausted.

Most organ donations are from patients who have irreversible brain function, require a ventilator, and – after evaluation, testing and documentation – are declared brain dead.

Brain death means the person has died; the ventilator is no longer keeping the person alive, it is artificially supporting the function of the heart and lungs. This differs from a patient in a coma, who is still alive and will not be considered a potential organ donor. Doctors do extensive evaluation, testing and documentation to determine if brain death has occurred.

When death is imminent or death has been declared, the Michigan Organ Donor Registry will be checked to see if the patient intended to donate. By law, the medical team treating the patient is completely separate from the transplant team.

Donor mother Terra DeFoe hears this question frequently, and she's got a great response:


Q: Does my religion support donation?

Most major religions approve of organ, tissue and eye donation and consider it the ultimate act of human kindness and generosity. The largest religions in Michigan -- including Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam -- support donation or leave the choice up to the individual.

For more information on your religion’s stance on organ donation, you can consult this large list of specific religious organizations and their positions on donation. Anyone who is still unsure or uncomfortable with the religious implications of donation is encouraged to speak with their religious leader.


Q: I have health problems. Can I still be a donor?

Yes, anyone is a potential organ donor despite medical conditions, so please don't rule yourself out! A diabetic, for example, might have unhealthy kidneys but a very strong heart or lungs. Likewise, an individual with cancer may still be able to donate some organs and tissue, depending on their cancer type and medical condition. Donors with other medical conditions, such as hepatitis or HIV, are able to save or prolong the lives of others who already have hepatitis or HIV.

Medical criteria for organ donation changes as medical advances occur, and a physician evaluates all potential donors at the time of death to determine what can be used to help others. We therefore encourage anyone, regardless of their medical history, to register as an organ donor and communicate their wishes to their family.


Q: Am I too old (or too young) to sign up?

No, don’t rule yourself out because of age. There are no age limits to register. There have been many successful transplants from donors over the age of 50. According to organdonor.gov, one of the oldest organ donors in the U.S. was 92, and his donated liver saved the life of a 69-year-old woman!

Likewise, people under age 18 can also register to be donors. Parents may legally revoke the registered decision of a minor to be a donor until that individual turns 18. It is especially important for minors who wish to donate to discuss that decision with their families.


Q: Can I indicate specific organs or tissue to be donated?

Joining the Michigan Organ Donor Registry gives authorization to donate all organs and tissues that are healthy enough to help another person. However, people wishing to limit their gift may create a separate document to indicate specific organs and tissues they want to donate. They should keep this in their own possession, signed and dated, and let their families know where it is kept for future reference.

The gift of a vascular composite allograft (such as a hand or face transplant) is provided only with special authorization from the donor's family at the time of donation; it is not included in the gifts offered through signing up on the Donor Registry.

Q: Why is it important to register as a donor?

Your gift will be used to help others through transplantation, therapy, research and education.

One person can donate up to eight life-saving organs, as well as tissues and corneas. Donated tissue can help up to 75 people, and be used to repair wounds, burns and joints. Donated corneas can restore vision or relieve painful swelling.

Organs and tissue that cannot be transplanted are valuable to research and education, allowing surgical teams to practice their transplant skills or contribute to research projects. For example, islet cells recovered from a donated pancreas could help researchers trying to find a cure for diabetes.

Registering as a donor is therefore an important step for anyone who wishes to help others through the gift of organ and tissue donation. If you register to become a donor, you relieve your grieving family of having to make a decision when you die. Having your decision to donate documented also ensures that it will be carried out, if medically possible.

Q: Will I still be able to have an open casket at the funeral?

Yes, donors are afforded the utmost respect and care, and neither organ nor tissue donation need interfere with open casket viewings.

Q: How do I sign up?

You can register to be a donor here.  It takes just a minute.

You can also join the registry by visiting any Secretary of State branch office, or their website.

Questions? Call us at 866-500-5801 during normal business hours.

Q: Why should I donate?

Around 2,500 people are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant in Michigan, with nearly 107,000 on the national waiting list. People die waiting every single day because the number in need of transplants greatly outpaces the number of organs available. There is an especially critical need for hearts, livers and kidneys.

Your decision to someday donate your organs and tissue could have a major impact in the lives of others. One donor can save up to eight lives, and improve the lives of up to 75 more:

  • Organ donations are often life-saving gifts for their recipients, and drastically improve their quality of life.

  • Cornea transplants can restore sight for those with painful swelling or damaged vision.

  • Donated tissue is used to restore hope and mobility to thousands of people every year, including combat veterans and patients with life-threatening burns or damaged joints.  

You can learn more about the benefits of organ donation here.

Q: How much does it cost to donate?

Nothing. Donation won’t cost your estate or family anything. All procedures related to the donation are covered by Gift of Life Michigan.