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LifeSource, Mayo Clinic and M Health Fairview to Establish “Donor Care Units”

High-tech, Specialized Facilities Will Increase Lives Saved through Deceased Organ Donation

MINNEAPOLIS – LifeSource, (the organ, eye and tissue donation specialists for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin), Mayo Clinic and M Health Fairview announced today a collaboration to create a system of “Donor Care Units” to increase the number of lives saved through organ donation in the upper Midwest. 

Donor care units (DCU) are dedicated clinical facilities focused on providing optimal and efficient care of organ donors prior to organ donation as well as the most advanced organ recovery techniques, which can improve the opportunities for organs to be successfully transplanted into waiting recipients. 

DCUs have become a best practice in recent years – other organ procurement organizations (OPOs), like LifeSource, utilize them nationwide and are recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2022 report.  

How DCUs Work: 

  • Individuals who have authorized organ donation (by registering on their driver’s license or the online donor registry; or their family authorizes on their behalf at the time of death) and meet donation criteria (brain death or non-survivable injury) are transferred from a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) to a dedicated donor care unit at Mayo Clinic or M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center. 
  • Hospitals will still conduct typical ceremonies to honor donors – like an honor walk or flag raising – as part of the donor transfer to a DCU. 
  • Donor care, organ health management, matching/allocation and recovery will occur at the DCU. 

LifeSource serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin; organ donors from all three states may be transferred to either DCU location (Twin Cities or Rochester, MN).   

“LifeSource is thrilled to be collaborating with two leading healthcare systems in our region to save more lives through these Donor Care Units, said Kelly White, LifeSource CEO. “These dedicated facilities will benefit donor families and waiting recipients along with hospitals and transplant centers.”  

Benefits of DCUs include: 

  • Increased capacity at donor hospital facilities: Transferring to a DCU improves access to critical care beds and operating room facilities at the referring hospital. Donors will still be attributed to the hospital where the donor referral was made, not by where the recovery occurs. 
  • More organs recovered; more lives saved: DCUs will have dedicated donor management staff and facilities including sophisticated imaging and diagnostic equipment (such as X-ray, bronchoscopy, CT scanner, cardiac catheterization labs and point-of-care laboratory services). Devices – like organ care systems – may also be housed onsite. 
  • Family support: DCUs also allow for a faster organ recovery, which benefits donor families: the time required to complete the process – including securing the OR space and surgical team – is often why families decline donation. 

“We have made excellent progress in organ transplantation, but due to the organ shortage, we are not able to offer it to all eligible patients,” says Julie Heimbach, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Transplant Center in Minnesota. “Establishing a Donor Care Unit is a step toward the ambitious goal of eliminating death on the waiting list for transplant patients and ensures donors’ decisions are honored to the fullest potential.”

M Health Fairview is one of the oldest and largest transplant centers in the world, with more than 50 years of experience conducting more than 12,000 organ and stem cell transplants,” said Andrew Adams, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Medical Director of M Health Fairview’s Solid Organ Transplant Service Line, and Professor and Chief of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Division of Transplantation. “Our commitment to our donor families remains our number one priority. The Donor Care Center Unit will allow us to further our mission, better serve our community, and improve the way we work so we can heal and save more lives.” 

The first iterations of the DCUs are expected to be operational this summer. 

About Organ Donation: Facts & Statistics 

  • Over 100,000 men, women and children are on the national transplant waiting list – with nearly 2,300 people in the upper Midwest. A new name is added to the waiting list every 9 minutes. 
  • Organ donation is extremely rare, and donors are viewed as heroes. Only 1 percent of people who die get the opportunity to give those gifts. That’s due to a variety of medical and circumstantial criteria, including passing away at a hospital on ventilated support. 
  • It takes many people working in concert to make the donation process happen in a short period of time. Watch this video to learn more about the donation process. 
  • One person can save eight lives by donating organs; heal more than 75 lives by recovering tissue and restore sight for up to 10 individuals through eye donation. 

About LifeSource 

LifeSource is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, serving more than seven million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant. Learn more at

About Mayo Clinic 

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Mayo Clinic is the largest integrated transplant center in the United States, performing more than 1,800 organ transplants per year. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news.  

About M Health Fairview
M Health Fairview is the newly expanded collaboration between the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Physicians, and Fairview Health Services. The healthcare system combines the best of academic and community medicine – expanding access to world-class, breakthrough care through our 10 hospitals and 60 clinics.  


Media Contacts: 

  • Sarah Sonn, LifeSource 
  • Heather Carlson Kehren, Mayo Clinic  
  • Aimee Jordan, M Health Fairview