Donated organs must be taken immediately after a person has died, usually after severe neurological injury or “brain death” has occurred. This is possible only in a hospital setting.
Tissues such as bone, skin, eyes, cartilage, veins and heart valves can be taken for up to 24 hours after the heart has stopped beating.
A more complete explanation regarding organ, tissue and body donation can be found on the website of the The Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC).
If a person dies at home, it is not possible to recover organs but some tissue recovery might still be possible if WRTC is contacted (703-641-0100) and the body is promptly transported to a hospital.
In Maryland, corneas are sent to the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland which is part of an international network of tissue and eye banks. Maryland law permits corneas to be donated without family permission although usually this will not occur if the family objects.
In Maryland, a person may state in an advance directive if he/she does or does not wish to become an organ or tissue donor or may stipulate that only certain types of organs or tissue may be donated. The driver’s license in Maryland allows an individual to designate himself an organ donor. If he does not, it is presumed willingness to be an organ donor is still an open question, as it is not possible to decline being an organ donor on the driver’s license.