Stats and Facts

The Basic Facts

On average, twenty people die every day in the U.S. while awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant.

The total number of patients waiting for an organ transplant today numbers more than 116,000.  More than one-third of them will die before a donor can be found.  More than 607 of them are 5 years old or younger. (OPTN data July 24, 2017)

The waiting list for organ transplants is growing at the rate of 4,000 per month. Another name is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.

In the TDS area, about 2,800 people are on the waiting list, yet in 2016 only 334 Tennesseans donated one or more organs upon death. (OPTN data July 24, 2017)

More than 33,000 patients began new lives in 2016 thanks to organ transplants, over 908 in the state of Tennessee. (OPTN data July 24, 2017)

Yet in 2016, there were only 9,971 people who donated one or more organs upon death and  another 5,979  living organ donors. (OPTN data July 24, 2017)

The average consent rate nationwide for organ donation has risen from 58% in 2003 to 70%. However, a recent study completed by HRSA found  96% of respondents willing to donate a deceased family member’s organs if he or she had expressed this wish prior to death. It is very important to sign up on the Donate Life  Registry  in your state either through the DMV when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or online at: in Tennessee, in Virginia, or in Georgia.

Transplantation is no longer considered experimental. It is a desired treatment for thousands with end-stage organ disease. Each year, approximately 1.75 million Americans receive tissue transplants, over 40,000 have their sight restored through cornea transplants, and more than 33,000 receive organ transplants.

In recent years, medical breakthroughs have greatly improved the success rate for transplantation… it now generally runs in excess of 80% for transplants overall.

Also, to dispel some myths and misconceptions:
Becoming a donor will not affect the quality of your medical care. Organ recovery takes place only after all efforts to save your life have been exhausted, and doctors have declared you legally brain dead. The donor family pays none of the costs associated with donation.

Transplants are accessible and available to everyone. Celebrity status and wealth do not enter into the equation. Organs are allocated according to medical criteria (urgency of medical need, blood/tissue type, height and weight).

All major religions support or permit donation and consider it a gift, an act of charity.

  • Across the country, over 116,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant. Every 10 minutes, a new person is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
  • On average, 20  people die every day because they did not receive a needed organ donation. As of July 24, 2017 (UNOS) , the national waiting list included  over 12,000 children younger than 18 years old.
  • Each year, approximately 1.75 million Americans receive tissue transplants, 40,000 receive cornea transplants.
  • In Tennessee, over 2,800 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Yet in 2016 only 334 Tennesseans were organ donors. (OPTN data July 2,. 2017)
  • Only 38% of Tennesseans are on the Donate Life Tennessee organ and tissue registry.
  • Organ transplantation is a desired treatment for thousands suffering end-stage organ disease, with a success rate of between 80% and 90%.
  • Tissue donation can give the gift of sight, save burn victims from disfigurement, provide relief from amputation, and grant other life-improving assistance.
  • Under ideal conditions, one organ donor can save the lives of eight people (heart, liver, pancreas, two lungs, two kidneys, and small intestine), and improve the lives of up to 50 or more through the donation of bone, skin, corneas, arteries, etc.
  • People of all ages can be donors—the oldest was 93!
  • At the time of death, medical professionals evaluate a potential donor’s medical and social history to determine suitability for donation. Constant advances in transplantation mean many more people can be donors than ever before. Even someone with a history of medical illness can be a donor.
  • Remember, each time you renew your driver’s license you must check the “Yes” box for the organ donor question. (If you do not check “yes,” you will be dropped from the registry!)
  • Simply signing the back of your license does NOT register you to be a donor.
  • Not sure if you signed up? Check your driver’s license and look for a small red heart. If you do not have a heart on your license, you will need to register online at or call 1-877-552-5050. These are the only three ways to become a registered organ donor.
  • It is crucial that you share your documented decision to be a donor with family members because federal law requires that they will be approached about organ and tissue donation at the time of a medically suitable loved one’s death.

Myths and Misconceptions

  • All people are equal when it comes to organ donation. Donor organs are matched to recipients based on blood and tissue type, height and weight, geographic location, and medical urgency.
  • Financial, political, social, or celebrity status are not considered when determining who receives an organ. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the organization responsible for overseeing the organ transplant network. For more facts on allocation, visit their website at
  • Most major religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation, considering it one of the highest forms of giving to and caring for others.
  • The first responsibility of medical professionals is to save lives, and every effort is made to save someone’s life before donation is discussed. Donation is pursued only after all life-saving measures have failed and death is legally declared.
  • There is no cost to you for organ and tissue donation. The only expenses you may acquire will be those involved with saving your life, not for your donation. The federally designated organ procurement organization pays for all expenses related to the donation process.