Modern medicine has made it possible for us to donate healthy organs and tissue to those in need after we have died. Transplants depend on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to donate to enhance the quality of someone else’s life. It is possible that one donor can save or improve the lives of a number of people.
Why it is important to make a decision
Deciding whether or not to become an organ and/or tissue donor is an important personal decision. If you think this is something you would like to do, it is a good idea to add your name to the organ donor register and share your decision with close relatives or friends. If you are not registered, when you die, your next of kin will be asked whether you would have wanted to be a donor so it is essential that they understand your wishes. By joining the register you are giving legal consent to the use of your organs and tissue for transplantation after your death if you are considered as a viable donor.
There are certain exceptions that may prevent you from becoming an organ donor, such as being diagnosed with HIV or CJD (a brain condition). If you have other medical conditions you can still join the register and a doctor will determine if your organs are suitable for donation. Becoming part of the register does not necessarily mean you will become a donor as this depends on the viability of the organs and circumstances of death. But the more people that join the register, the higher the chances of helping someone in need.
It is possible for you to specify which organs you are willing to donate if there are certain elements you are not comfortable with them taking. You must tick the appropriate boxes on the organ donor registration form or donor card in these circumstances. In the case of cornea donation there is currently an upper age limit of 80 years, and for the donation of heart valves and tendons there is an age limit of 60 years. However, there is no upper age limit for joining the register to donate other organs and tissue, viability is determined by condition.
How to register
You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by:
• Filling in a form online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk
• Calling the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 (lines are open 24 hours a day all year, charged at your local rate)
• Text SAVE to 62323
You can also join when you:
• Register for a driving license
• Register at a GP surgery
• Register for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
• Apply for a Boots Advantage Card
Make sure your family and loved ones are aware of your decision. For more in-depth information, please visit the NHS Organ Donation website listed above. There is a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions and guidance on how to join.