Organ Donation is the donation of an organ or tissue from one person to another. Most donations come from people who have died while on ventilation support in a hospital intensive care unit. Organs, particularly hearts and lungs, deteriorate very quickly without an oxygen supply. The ventilator provides the necessary oxygen to help maintain the body until organs are retrieved, especially the heart that keeps distributing blood to the rest of the body.
If doctors caring for patients in the critical care areas in the hospital strongly believe there is no chance of recovery and that treatment is no longer in a patient's best interest, they will talk to the family and ask them about their relatives' end of life wishes. This may include asking about organ and tissue donation.
Patients receiving end of life care on other wards in the hospital may be asked about tissue donation.
What is tissue donation?
Tissue donation is the gift of tissue such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves. Most people can donate tissue. It may be possible to donate tissue up to 48 hours after a person has died.
- People with poor vision or eye injury have their sight restored by donated corneas.
- Bone, tendons and cartilage are used for reconstruction after an injury or during joint replacement surgery.
- Heart valves are used to help children born with heart defects and adults with diseased or damaged valves.
- Skin grafts are used to treat people with severe burns.
Organ Donation - The Facts:
What organs and tissues can be donated?
- Heart valves
In the UK between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013:
- 4,212 organ transplants were carried out, thanks to the generosity of 2,313 donors.
- 1,160 lives were saved in the UK through a heart, lung, liver or combined heart/lungs, liver/kidney or liver/pancreas transplant.
- 3,052 patients' lives were dramatically improved by a kidney or pancreas transplant, 166 of whom received a combined kidney/pancreas transplant.
- A further 3,697 people had their sight restored through a cornea transplant.
- A record number of 749 kidney transplants from donors after circulatory death took place and accounted for one in four of all kidney transplants.
- 1,068 living donor kidney transplants were carried out accounting for more than a third of all kidney transplants. 'Non-directed' living donor transplants (also known as altruistic donor transplants) and paired and pooled donations contributed more than 130 kidney transplants between them.
- Almost 1,012,000 more people pledged to help others after their death by registering their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register, bringing the total to 19,532,806 (March 2013).
Myth: Doctors won't work as hard to save my life, if I'm on the register.
Fact: Your doctor's primary focus is to save your life. The doctor in charge of your care has nothing to do with transplantation. Your doctor will not talk to the transplant services until they have made the decision that treatment is no longer in your best interests. It is the transplant services team that check the organ donor register.
Myth: I'm not in the greatest health, and my eyesight is poor. Nobody would want my organs/tissues.
Fact: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.
Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.
Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most religions. This includes: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, talk to one of your faith leaders.
Organ Donor Register
• The NHS Organ Donor Register records the details of people who have registered their wishes to donate organs and/or tissue for transplantation after their death. This information is checked by authorised medical staff when someone is dying to establish whether they want to donate.
• Anyone can register. Age isn't a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become organ donors and saved many lives.
• 96% (or about 19 out of 20) of families agree to organ donation when a relative is registered.
To add your name to the NHS Organ Donor Register, please ring 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
For more information about organ donation visit these websites:
Telephone: 0300 123 2323
Text SAVE 84118
NHS Choices – organ donation and Map of Medicine
Human Tissue Authority
Twitter - @NHSBT