Organ, Tissues, and Eye Donation
Organ, tissue and eye donation is regulated by state and federal legislation to ensure a safe and equitable allocation, distribution, and transplantation of donated organs. The U.S. Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act in 1984 which established the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN) to maintain a national registry for organ matching. The Act also calls for private, nonprofit organizations to maintain this network. More information on this Act and organ donation can be found at the U.S. Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation website.
New England Donor Services (NEDS) is responsible for performing organ and tissue donation at Yale New Haven Hospital. NEDS screens all reported Yale New Haven Hospital deaths for suitability prior to contacting the family for consent and patient history.
While associated with Yale New Haven Hospital, NEDS is a separate entity that operates under the State of Connecticut Substitute House Bill No. 5407 Public Act No. 04-122. To learn more about becoming an organ donor at Yale New Haven Health.
How Donation Affects Funeral Arrangements and an Autopsy
Tissue procurement must occur within a specific time period following death; this window of time may vary for different tissues. A NEDS representative can explain the various time requirements for organ, tissue, and eye donation.
Organ procurement will delay the release of a patient to a funeral home or cremation service due to the process involved. The NEDS staff member who takes consent for organ donation should explain the predicted timeline based on which organs are expected to be recovered as well as any other potential delays. The Autopsy Service is not always made aware of these delays as the recovery of certain organs is performed in the operating room prior to transportation of the patient to the Autopsy Service.
Tissue and eye donation can minimally delay funeral arrangements. NEDS has the right to ask that a patient not be released to a funeral home or cremation service until their staff has had an opportunity to review the case and speak with the family about donation. This right is protected by State of Connecticut Substitute House Bill No. 5407 Public Act No. 04-122. If the family consents to tissue or eye donation, the representative from NEDS will explain the timeline for recovery and approximate the time that the patient will be ready for release to the funeral home. The Autopsy Service will work with the funeral home or cremation service to try to minimize any potential delay.
Donation does not interfere with the Autopsy Service's ability to perform an autopsy. However, the Autopsy Service will typically delay an autopsy on patients the NEDS has identified as a potential donor. This is to ensure the best opportunity for NEDS to recover all possible tissue as an autopsy will prevent recovery of some tissue due to the potential for contamination. After NEDS completes their recovery, the remaining tissue can be examined. NEDS will provide the Autopsy Service with a report on the analysis of the organ, tissue or eye recoveries to include in the final autopsy report.