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What Is The Difference Between Organ Donation And Whole-Body Donation?

  • Post category:Medcure
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We have all seen the form at the DMV asking if we wish to be an organ donor, but not everyone understands what that entails. These programs, known as Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO), are responsible for the life-saving organ and tissue transplants that most are familiar with in medical fields. Non-transplant Anatomical Donation Organizations (NADO), are not involved in the transplant process. However, they provide tissues to be used in scientific research and education. For many people, MedCure is their first exposure to the difference between being an organ donor and donating their body to science. 


So what’s the difference? Do you have to choose between one or the other? Why should you donate at all?


  • Transplants offer greater immediate impact, often saving the lives of those in desperate need of new organs or tissues.
  • Some transplants can occur while a donor is still living, such as kidneys, blood, or skin tissue. They are often only used for one patient per transplant.
  • Organ donation has stricter requirements for eligibility. These include: more stringent BMI restrictions, no history of illegal drug use, no blood disorders, organ compatibility, etc.
  • After a transplant donation, the donor’s family is still responsible for making the final arrangements for burial or cremation.
  • Non-transplant donations don’t impact individuals. Instead, they lead to future breakthroughs in disease research, education, and other biological studies that help many lives.
  • Non-transplant donations are always procured after the donor has passed. Their anatomical gift can be studied several times and help many different studies.
  • Whole-body donation has some restrictions, but fewer than organ donation. Most people are eligible. 
  • Most non-transplant donation programs include cremation as part of the process.


Other Facts To Note:

  • Organ donation does not necessarily preclude you from being a whole body donor! For example, you can donate your corneas to an OPO and still be a whole-body donor.
  • Even if you aren’t qualified to be an organ donor, you may be able to be a whole body donor
  • At MedCure, you can pre-register your intent to donate online or over the phone. Or you can have a loved one call in after passing to register on your behalf, if they have the legal authority.

No matter what kind of donation piques your interest, it is always important to remember: your gift has the potential to save lives and advance research in countless ways. 

Thank you, from all of us at MedCure!