Donation Overview



Whole Body


Organs that can be donated at the time of your death include your heart, two lungs, two kidneys, liver, pancreas and the small intestine. Organs can be used for life-saving transplants, research into cures for life-threatening diseases and therapies for current disease treatments.

A typical organ donor is someone who has died after suffering from a traumatic injury to the brain–for example, a stroke, an aneurysm, or a car accident. For death to be declared, a strict set of medical criteria must be met. Among the criteria is the complete absence of activity in either the brain or the brain stem (responsible for reflexes such as cough, gag, blinking, etc.). By law, only a doctor not connected to the transplantation process may declare brain death. Some patients who suffer unrecoverable neurological injuries but are not brain dead may be able to donate after cardiac death.

After death by neurological criteria is declared, the heart, as a muscle, can still circulate blood for a limited amount of time and keep the internal organs viable. It is during that short amount of time that organs may be recovered for transplantation, research, therapy and education.

WRTC’s recovery staff are notified about every death. If the patient is a potential donor, they will determine if the patient registered to be a donor, approach the patient’s family or health care agent to discuss the options of organ and tissue donation and carry out the wishes of the donor or the donor’s family. To find out how to be an organ and tissue donor, click here.





Small Intestines







While officially considered life-enhancing and not life-saving, a tissue transplant is still a life-changing opportunity for the recipient. From someone who receives the gift of sight for the first time in a cornea transplant to someone who receives skin for burn treatments, tissue recipients are incredibly grateful to donors for having given them the opportunity of greatly improving their lives and the lives of those around them.

A tissue donor is different from an organ donor because someone can be a potential tissue donor if they died according to brain death criteria or if their heart has stopped (cardiac death). Tissues can be recovered up to 24 hours after the heart has stopped beating. WRTC is committed to ethically and responsibly recovering tissue for life-changing opportunities. A non-profit organization, WRTC follows all FDA, CDC and AATB guidelines set for tissue recovery.

Tissues that can be donated at the time of death and how they may be used are:


Facial reconstruction, limb salvage, birth defect correction, cancer treatment, spinal and oral surgery


Facial and other post-traumatic injury reconstruction


Restoring eyesight


In neurosurgery, to correct damage from trauma or tumor

Heart valves

For replacement where animal or artificial valves cannot be tolerated and there are no whole transplantable hearts available


For neurosurgery, especially in brain operations


Temporary covering for burn patients to reduce pain, scarring, fluid loss, infection, and for abdominal wall reconstruction, post mastectomy breast reconstruction and ENT head and neck plastic reconstruction.


Correcting joint injuries


Used in heart bypass surgery

Whole Body Donation

Each year thousands of people donate their bodies for use at medical schools for training and research. Researchers have an ongoing need for this type of donation to help in their work to find cures and therapies for many diseases, as well as training medical students in anatomy and surgical techniques. There is no upper age limit, and there is usually no cost for whole body donations.* For more information about donating your body for education and research in this area, contact the following:

Georgetown University
Department of Cell Biology

(202) 687-1219

George Washington University
Dept. of Anatomy

(202) 994-3511

State Anatomy Board of Maryland

(800) 879-2728

State Anatomical Program of Virginia

(804) 786-2479

Uniformed Services University
of the Health Sciences

(301) 295-3334

Howard University Department of Anatomy

(202) 806-9869

*Please note that those who donate their entire body for education or research cannot be organ or tissue donors.

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