Organ/Tissue/Blood/Blood Stem Cells Donation Process

November 1986
March 1993 (reaffirmed)
February 1997 (revised)
November 2000 (revised)
November 2003 (revised)
November 2006 (revised)
November 2009 (revised)

Statement of the Issue

Medical advances have provided a tremendous opportunity to save or improve lives through organ, tissue, blood and blood stem cells (marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood) transplantation. Though tens of thousands of lives are saved or enhanced each year through transplantation, tragically, thousands more continue to be lost because need outpaces availability. Even when there is consent for organ and tissue donation, the actual number of organs and tissues utilized is suboptimal, with a failure to transplant many organs and tissues available. Thus, waiting lists for these resources continue to grow at unprecedented levels.

Significant opportunities exist to increase both the proportion of eligible donors who become donors and the number of organs and tissues transplanted per donor. Donation and transplantation can be increased through:

  • Specific hospital procedures that are developed in collaboration with affiliated organ and tissue procurement organizations to work with patients and families in maximizing donation rates, including accessing donor registries to determine the donation wishes of patients who die in hospitals
  • Adoption of best practices for increasing the donation conversion rate and the number of organs transplanted per donor, such as those published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Donation and Transplantation Community of Practice
  • Heightened public and professional awareness of the problem and distribution of information related to potential solutions

Though governments, medical professionals, hospitals, procurement organizations and insurance companies can provide resources that support donation, only individuals and their families have the ultimate power to offer the gift of life.

Policy Position

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) believes that all healthcare executives should work to increase the supply of available organs, tissues, blood and blood stem cells (marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood) for transplantation. ACHE recognizes donation as a critical component of life-saving technology and end-of-life decision making and supports voluntary efforts to increase organ, tissue, blood and blood stem cells availability (see related Ethical Policy Statement, “Decisions Near the End of Life”).

As business and community leaders, healthcare executives have the influence and credibility to motivate individuals and families to consider donation of organs, tissues, blood and blood stem cells. ACHE encourages its members to actively pursue the following:

Establish Protocols and Information Programs

  • Together with their affiliated organ and tissue procurement organization, establish effective and compassionate protocols for working with patients and their families. Families of dying patients should be provided with the option to donate. Many appreciate the opportunity to ease their personal loss with a selfless, giving act.
  • Develop strong, ongoing public information and education programs that help people understand the process of organ and tissue donation, the advantages of registering with their state donor registry and the importance of sharing with their families the decision they have reached.
  • Develop strong, ongoing public information and education programs that help people understand the process of blood donation and how to become a potential marrow, peripheral blood stem cells, or umbilical cord blood donor.
  • Support efforts to provide access to state donor registries by people in the hospital community.

Encourage Donation

  • Encourage members of the medical community, particularly physicians in the critical care setting, to develop protocols reflecting the best practices in the field to maximize organ, tissue, blood and blood stem cells donation, availability and transplantation.
  • Consider serving as a role model by publicizing their own personal decision to register as an organ and tissue donor, participate in blood drives, or join the marrow registry. Healthcare executives can provide leadership in the resolution of this important social problem by encouraging their staff to follow their lead and in coordinating community efforts.
  • Participate in national, state and local government and private-sector initiatives to promote organ, tissue, blood and blood stem cells donation, including enrolling in HRSA’s Workplace Partnership for Life at organdonor.gov, and join thousands of other companies that are promoting donation in the workplace.

The issue of organ, tissue, blood and blood stem cells (marrow, peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood) donation and transplantation reaches beyond the limited availability of these precious resources in the face of growing demand, but one issue is clear: Transplantation cannot save lives and promote well-being unless caring individuals donate. ACHE encourages its members to develop an environment that fosters this opportunity.

Approved by the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives on November 16, 2009.

Related Resources

American College of Healthcare Executives Ethical Policy Statement, “Decisions Near the End of Life.”

Information on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Organ Donation and Transplantation Community of Practice can be found at: http://healthdisparities.net/hdc/html/collaboratives.topics.tgmc.aspx

General information about organ donation can be found at: organdonor.gov