The Many Roles of OPOs: Supporting Donors and Families

Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) are non-profit entities designated by the federal government to oversee the complex and life-saving process of organ donation. The responsibilities of an OPO are extensive and include donor registration, donor evaluation and medical care, donation authorization, organ recovery and preservation, recipient matching coordination, and transportation; but their work transcends these technical duties. OPOs are custodians of hope, ensuring the process of organ donation honors the donor’s legacy, supports grieving families, and fulfills the needs of organ transplant recipients.

Supporting Donors and Families

At the center of every organ donation story is a family navigating one of the most challenging moments of their lives. OPO staff recognize the profound weight of this decision and provide compassionate support to donor families. This care includes services to ensure families are informed, respected, and honored for their loved one’s gift. The empathy and understanding shown by OPO staff play a crucial role in helping families find solace and meaning in their loss.

Grief Support & Counseling: OPOs offer counseling services to help families cope with the grief and emotional stress associated with losing a loved one, often unexpectedly. This support is critical during the decision-making process for organ donation and continues even after the donation has occurred.

Educational Resources: OPOs provide families with information about the organ donation process, helping them understand how their loved one’s gift can save or improve lives. This includes explaining the medical procedures involved and the potential impact their gift can have.

Donation Process Guide: OPOs guide families through the complex logistics of organ donation. This includes managing the medical evaluation of the donor, coordinating the surgical process, and ensuring organs are safely transported to recipients.

Donor Tributes: Many OPOs help families honor their loved one through various programs, such as creating tributes or holding remembrance events. These opportunities include the deeply moving “honor walks,” where hospital staff and loved ones line the hallways to pay their respects as the donor is taken to the operating room. These types of ceremonies allow families to honor and celebrate the legacy of their loved one.

Connecting Donor Families & Recipients: OPOs facilitate communication and sometimes meetings between donor families and organ recipients if both parties agree. Knowing the positive outcomes of their loved one’s donation can provide closure and comfort to these families.

Ongoing Support: OPOs offer many long-term support services to donor families and keep them informed of new developments in organ donation and transplantation. Long-term services may include support groups, annual memorials, and newsletters where stories of lives touched by their loved one’s donation are shared. Donor family members often volunteer with the OPO to continue supporting the donation mission.

AOPO Donor Remembrance Day

We regularly share data to demonstrate the impact of organ donation and transplantation, but it’s important to remember that behind every donation is a person with a story. During Donate Life Month, AOPO provides a platform for donor families and recipients to honor their donor heroes through Donor Remembrance Day. Participants are encouraged to post tributes, including photos and memories, in a virtual garden. This observance takes place throughout April and concludes on April 30th with a special dedication to the donor heroes and their gifts, which will always be remembered.

Website Banner Donor Remembrance Day 1


Through these supportive actions, OPOs help ensure the organ donation process is comforting and meaningful for the families involved. As we acknowledge and appreciate the vital role of OPOs, we are reminded of their purpose: to serve donors and donor families as stewards of the gift of life.

Steve Miller, MBA, CAE

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