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Can I Be Cremated if I’m An Organ Donor?

Published: December 15, 2023

Yes—in fact, any type of funeral services or cremation options may take place after donation. A donor’s body is treated with respect and dignity during the entire donation procedure which is usually completed within hours but can take up to 24 to 36 hours. The family may then proceed with any final disposition or funeral arrangements as they wish, including cremation.

How the Donation Procedure Works

The first step is for the hospital staff to contact the organ procurement organization (OPO) to report the death. The OPO then sends clinical staff to the hospital to evaluate if donation is possible. According to “Each potential donor is evaluated to see what organs/tissue can be recovered for transplantation. The number of organs/tissues recovered varies from person to person.”

Donors are then matched with recipients through a computer program that uses criteria such as blood type; height and weight; how long the recipient has been on the waiting list; and distance to the patient. Due to the fragile nature of the donation, approximately 75 percent of all organs are given to local recipients. 

The recovery of organs or tissue is a surgical procedure by a team of specialist surgeons. During the recovery process, the donor is treated with dignity and respect for their selfless donation. Once the recovery of organs and/or tissue has been accomplished, the donor’s body is then released to their next of kin.

“All funeral and burial or cremation options may take place after donation,” states

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there are more than 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants nationwide. It’s estimated that about 17 people die in the U.S. each day because there aren’t enough donor organs for all who wait for a transplant.

On the other hand, only 3 in 1,000 people are suitable organ donors at the time of death. In order to meet transplant criteria, organs must be in perfect working order with no threat of disease. A donor has to die under specific circumstances for their organs to be donated, such as a severe head trauma or a massive stroke. In many cases, the potential donor is on life support, which maintains oxygen and blood flow to the organs. In some cases, the organs can be recovered prior to death, such as kidneys.

Different Types of Donations

Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation provides organs for transplant, including kidney, liver, heart, lungs, small intestines, and pancreas. These six organs can save the lives of as many as nine people. Donated tissues such as corneas, bones, ligaments, and skin can vastly improve life for many people. Donors must be 16 to register and there is no maximum age.

Living Donation is when a person donates a whole or partial organ to another person. The most common living donation is a kidney, followed by a partial liver donation. (“Donation - Illinois Secretary of State”) Due to the critical shortage of deceased donors, living organ donation was developed to shorten the waiting time for the person in need of a transplant. There is no living donor registry. Many living donors have someone that they know, but others donate to someone they do not know who is on the waiting list. 

Whole Body Donation is an option for donating the body to science. Health professionals and medical students study whole body donations to learn the fundamentals of human biology and anatomy through the dissection and study of the bodies in regulated laboratories. (“Donation - Illinois Secretary of State”) Most whole-body donors are cremated afterward at little or no cost to the family.  

Being an organ donor does not affect your choice to be cremated. If you do wish to be cremated following organ donation, it’s a good idea to preplan your funeral to make your wishes known to your loved ones. Or you can outline your wishes through a living will.

For more information on the donation process, visit

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