The option of organ donation is most often offered after brain death is declared. Persons who die of brain death are maintained on a respirator, which, in turn, allows the heart to continue to pump blood through the organs, which is necessary for organ recovery. In some situations involving severely injured or ill patients who are not brain dead, the option of organ donation may be offered after the family has already decided to withdraw life support.
The age of a donor is less important than physical condition. Each organ is evaluated individually. In general, there must be no history of chronic disease, infection or cancers (except brain tumor). Organ donors may also donate tissue.