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How Donating Organs Affects Cremation

Fifty percent of American adults are registered organ donors. Today, roughly 56% of people are cremated. Based on those numbers, a certain percentage of organ donors will choose to be cremated.
How Donating Organs Affects Cremation

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So how does donating organs affect the cremation process? Let’s take a look.

Cremation Likely Won’t Be Affected Because Chances of Donating Organs is Low

When a person becomes a registered organ donor they assume that one or more of their organs will be donated to someone whose life depends on it.

The truth is only 3 in 1,000 people are suitable organ donors at the time of death. But those three people can make a big difference. Up to 8 organs can be donated by a single person: 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, heart, liver, intestines and pancreas. 

An organ must be in perfect working condition with no threat of disease in order to meet transplant criteria. That means a donor has to die under specific circumstances for their organs to be donated. It’s common for people who have died from a particular illness, suffered a severe head trauma or had a massive stroke to be an organ donor. In most cases the donor is on life support, which maintains oxygen and blood flow to the organs.

Organs Are Removed Quickly So Donating Doesn’t Slow Down Cremation

In some cases an organ donation can occur while a person is still alive. This is often the case with kidney donation. But the majority of the time the donor has just died and time is of the essence.

The first thing a doctor will do is contact the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) to determine if the donor is a match for a recipient. If there’s a chance, a local OPO representative is immediately dispatched to the hospital to help make a match and facilitate the process.

Organs are extremely delicate, and must be removed quickly if they are going to be viable as a transplant. For that reason, donors are kept on life support until the transplant surgical team is ready to remove the organs in an operating room at the hospital.  

The organ removal process typically takes 4-6 hours. Once it’s complete the clock starts ticking again. Organs must be transplanted within 4-36 hours depending on the organ.

In addition to vital organs, doctors can remove heart valves, skin, corneas and bones for transplants. Tissue like this can be removed for up to 24 hours after death.

At the very most, the cremation process may be delayed by a day or two. However, the family can go ahead and start making arrangements as soon as their loved one is pronounced dead or brain death is verified.

QUICK FACT: Your family can give permission to donate your organs even if you weren’t a registered organ donor. There are more than 109,000 people waiting for lifesaving organs. If a doctor believes an organ can be donated they will immediately ask the family if the individual isn’t registered to allow them time to consider the matter.

Donating Organs Won’t Affect Religious Ceremonies

There are a lot of religious customs and beliefs connected to death. Some people are concerned that donating organs could potentially conflict with religious traditions. Fortunately, no religion outright forbids people from donating organs. Choosing to donate organs won’t impact your ability to have certain religious ceremonies and funeral services in any way.

The 50% of Americans that are registered organ donors don’t have to worry about their funeral options. Cremation, including our green cremation services, are still available after the organ removal process. 

If you need help making cremation arrangements give our team a call. We’re available 24/7 to answer your questions.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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