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The Waiting List

How Does the Organ Transplant Waiting List Work?

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a private, non-profit organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system and waiting list. UNOS works with donation and transplant professionals to make life-saving organ transplants possible. The organization places an emphasis on education, technology and policy development to advance organ availability and transplantation. It is committed to a fair and equitable organ transplant process.

UNOS, which is under contract with the federal government, matches donors and recipients using a complex process that involves all organ procurement organizations (including Gift of Life Michigan) and hospital transplant centers (nine programs in Michigan). When prioritizing patients for transplantation, medical factors, size of the organ and distance from the donor hospital are considered in the matching process for all organs; geography is especially important for organs such as hearts and lungs, which have less time to be transplanted. Although other factors may be considered based on the individual organ type, personal or social characteristics such as income or celebrity status do not factor into organ matching.

Organ Donation Statistics

More than 108,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant nationally, and a new person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.

Of those on the waiting list, about 2,500 are Michigan residents, yet some areas of Michigan still have a relatively low number of adults registered as organ donors. The number of Michigan patients waiting remains high because there aren’t enough donated organs to meet the need for transplants; in fact, only a small percentage of people die in a way that makes organ donation medically possible. Because of this, it is critical that every opportunity for donation is acted upon and that anyone who supports organ donation registers to be an organ donor.


Michigan residents waiting for organs

Last year, the generosity of Michigan's 374 organ donors resulted in 1,047 life-saving organ transplants. Another 1,549 donors provided the gift of tissue for thousands of patients in need. 

So far this year, Michigan donors have provided 444 organs and countless tissues for transplant.

Michigan patients waiting for a transplant as of June 1, 2021: