How Long After Death Can You Donate Organs (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 4 Hours

The donation of organs is a voluntary process, known to be helpful for people with some other disability. The time gap is of utmost importance for this procedure as some organs become dysfunctional after a few hours. There is a possibility of donating the whole body as well (for research purposes and other studies).

On the other hand, the separate organs are to be donated based on prior registrations or immediate needs of the person at the receiving end. The respective time gaps should be kept in mind in order to avoid any delay or malfunctioning.

How Long After Death Can You Donate Organs?

Donating organs after death is known to be a humanitarian duty. After a person is no more alive, the fully functioning organs can be extracted carefully from the body of the donor. Thereafter, the concerned authorities might go for immediate transplantation or store the organs for later use.

The eye donation process is the most common. The cornea is removed within four hours of death and can be later used to help blind people. Anyone and everyone can donate eyes unless there is an underlying disease. DCD, or donation after circulatory death is an essential process that needs to be completed within ninety minutes.

The heart donation process is marked by a series of steps which involve consent, withdrawal of life support, and subsequent storage. In most severe cases, the transplant or donation procedure takes place in the Intensive Care Unit, preferably where the donor breathed last.

As far as the other steps are concerned, the medical professionals might pause in between in order to perform the necessary checks. Maintaining compatibility is also important as transplanting a wrongly donated organ might worsen the health condition.

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For internal organs, blood flow needs to be constant else the organs will be of no use. The transplantation process is independent of the time of donation due to the availability of green corridors and other successful storage mediums for the same.

Overall, it is considered that the sooner the organ is donated, the better it is. The delay only leads to loss of efficiency and the donor’s family might have to wait for long.

In Summary:

Type of DeathTime
Circulatory death90 minutes
Normal death4 hours

Why Can You Donate Organs So Long After Death?

The delay is caused due to a number of physical and documentation factors. The most important reason is the preservation of organs. If eyes are to be donated, four hours is the limit. As far as tissue donation or skin donation is concerned, the duration of life support also plays an important role.

The main motive is to remove the desired organ from the deceased person’s body as soon as possible. If the process is pre-decided and registrations have already been made, the donation time is enhanced. For donating the heart, a lot of factors including oxygen level and palpitation need to be analyzed beforehand.

Donating organs is not limited to people of a particular age. Therefore, the elderly can also opt for donations in case the organ concerned is in proper working condition. At times, multiple organs are also donated. Such a procedure has no fixed time as the combination of organs might have different preservation periods.

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This depends upon family consent as well. If the registration process takes up a lot of time, the organ might cease to be functional. In case of brain death, there are other complications as well. 

Conclusion

The sole criteria for a successful donation post-death are the health quotient. Matching the other necessities is the responsibility of the medical personnel. In addition to these physiological parameters, one must make sure that the organs are donated to trustworthy sources only.

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The middlemen also play an important role as the donated organs need to be transplanted within a specific time gap. Storage is a bit gruesome, as far as some internal organs are concerned. The consent of the immediate family is one of the most essential factors. Paperwork and obtaining certificates thereafter directly stems from the registration procedure. 

References

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0969733011423410
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1399-0012.2005.00407.x