Have you thought about helping someone after your death? An organ transplant can dramatically improve or save someone’s life, but they depend entirely on the generosity of donors and their families.
More than 10,000 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.
However, less than 4,000 organ transplants are carried out each year in the UK. One donor can save and improve the lives of up to nine people.
The NHS Organ donor register
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential list of people who are willing to become donors after their death. You can join the register at organdonation.nhs.uk, by calling NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23, or when you apply for a driving licence or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or register with a new GP.
There are more than 18,000,000 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register, but three people die every day in the UK while waiting for a transplant. Even though there are millions of people on the register, most of them will not die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs, so it is important that more people join the register.
Although family and friends can't overrule your decision to donate your organs, it's still important to discuss your wishes with them as organ and tissue donation will be discussed with them in the event of your death.
People from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities wait twice as long, on average, for a transplant than the rest of the population. Donation rates among BME groups are relatively low, and as a transplant is more likely to be successful if the donor and recipient are from the same ethnic group, there is a particular need for people from these groups to join the register.
Which organs can be donated?
Kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and the small bowel can all be transplanted.
What is tissue donation?
Tissue donation is the gift of tissue such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves to help others.
Types of donation
There are different ways of donating an organ after you have died.
Most donations are from heartbeating donors. This means the donor died but is being supported by a ventilator until the donated organs have been retrieved. This method has a greater success rate because the organs are maintained by oxygenated blood until removal.
Organs and tissue can also be donated from non-heartbeating donors. This means that the heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) and the patient cannot be resuscitated.
Registering to become an Organ Donor
By choosing to join the NHS Organ Donor Register you could help to make sure life goes on for others. Joining the register records your agreement to the use of your organs and tissue for transplantation after your death.
When you register it is important that you tell those closest to you about your decision.
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.
You may also want to register with MedicAlert and wear the distinctive bracelet to alert people to your wishes. You are also able to register that you have an advanced care plan (living will) if this is the case.
Leaving your body to medical science
You may wish to donate your body to medical science to help with research and the training of future doctors. Find out more on the Human Tissue Authority website