Have you thought about helping someone after your death? An organ transplant can dramatically improve or save someone’s life, but they depend almost entirely on the generosity of donors and their families.
More than 6,000* people in the UK need an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve their lives. Most are waiting for a kidney, heart, lung or liver transplant. Around 4,500* organ transplants are carried out each year in the UK. One donor can save and improve the lives of up to nine people.
Organ donation law
The laws around organ donation differ across the UK. England and Wales operate an ‘opt-out’ system, and Scotland and Northern Ireland currently operate an ‘opt-in’ system. Whatever the law is in your country, you still have a choice whether or not to be an organ and tissue donor.
The best way to record your decision, regardless of the law where you live, is to register on the NHS Organ Donor Register and talk to your loved ones about what you have decided. Families are always involved in organ donation at end of life, so talk to them about it and leave them certain about what you want.
The NHS Organ Donor Register
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential list of people who have recorded a decision about organ and tissue donation. You can register your decision at organdonation.nhs.uk, by calling NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23.
There are more than 27,000,000* people who have recorded a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, but someone dies every day in the UK while waiting for a transplant. Even though millions of people have registered to be donors, very few people die in circumstances where donation is possible, so it’s really important that people who want to be donors make their decision known and talk to their family.
Ethnicity matters, and Black and South Asian patients wait longer for a transplant than the rest of the population. Although people can receive a transplant from someone of any ethnicity, a transplant is more likely to be successful if the donor and recipient are from the same ethnic group.
When you join the NHS Organ Donor Register you can select whether your faith or beliefs are important to you, whatever they are they will always be respected.
Which solid organs can be donated?
The heart, lungs, liver, small bowel, pancreas and kidneys can all be transplanted.
What is tissue donation?
Tissue donation is the gift of tissue such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, and heart valves to help others.
Types of donation
There are different ways that people can be considered as organ donors when they die.
Donation after Brainstem Death (DBD)
Most donations are from donors declared dead following neurological death tests. This means the donor died and is being supported by a ventilator until the donated organs and/or tissue have been retrieved. This method has a greater success rate because the organs are maintained by oxygenated blood until removal.
Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD)
Organs and tissue can also be donated after the declaration of death following circulatory arrest. This means that the heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) and the patient cannot be resuscitated. Like DBD donation, these patients will have spent a period of time on the intensive care connected to a ventilator, being treated until it becomes clear that ongoing therapy is either futile or not in their best interests.
Registering to become an Organ Donor
By choosing to be an organ donor, you could help to make sure life goes on for others. Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor records your agreement to the use of your organs and/or tissue for transplantation after your death.
When you register it is important that you tell those closest to you about your decision. If you don’t have family, you can also nominate a representative who medical teams would approach in the event of your death, should donation be a possibility.
To decide whether or not you wish to become a donor after you have died is something very personal, and it is important that everyone makes their own decision. The link below will take you to a page of the most commonly asked questions about organ and tissue donation and aims to resolve any doubts you might have about leaving a legacy of life for others after you die.