What is Organ Donation?
Organ donation is the giving of an organ to help someone who needs a transplant.
How many types of donation are there?
There are 3 different ways to donate. These are:
” living donation – Whilst you are still alive you can choose to donate a kidney, a small section of your liver, discarded bone from a hip or knee replacement and also your amniotic membrane (placenta).
” Brainstem death – This is where a person no longer has activity in their brain stem due to a severe brain injury. They have permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe. This may happen even when a ventilator is keeping the person’s heart beating and oxygen is circulated through their blood.
” Circulatory death – Is the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs after a cardiac arrest from which the patient cannot or should not be resuscitated. It can also be the planned withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from a patient within the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department.
Tell me more about a “Living Donor”? What is that?
Living Donors are organ donors who are alive, and agree to donate a kidney or a section of their liver. We can survive with one kidney and the liver is the only organ which will grow back which is why we are able to do this.
The living donor will undergo an operation to remove the organ or part of it, and it is then transplanted into the recipient. There are benefits and drawbacks to each option, but living donors are becoming increasingly common as the shortage of organ donors is not matching the need for transplants.
Which organs can be transplanted?
Most organs can be transplanted. The liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, small bowel, pancreas, corneas (part of the eye) and many more tissues such as valves, tendons and skin – even bone can be donated! You can tick which organs you would like to donate when you sign up to the donor register and discuss it with your loved ones.
Will donating my organs leave my body disfigured?
No. If you donate any of your organs after you pass away, the surgeons will be incredibly respectful of your wishes and endeavour to leave your body as untouched as possible meaning that an open casket funeral will still be possible and no one will know that you have donated anything.
Am I too old/young to be an organ donor?
There is no upper age limit for who can be an organ donor, there have been organ donors as old as 80. As long as you are on the register, the doctors will decide if your organs are suitable for donation.
There is no lower age limit to who can be an organ donor – you may have heard that in 2015 a baby who was only hours old became the youngest donor ever when he sadly died after birth. However, you do have to be 12 to actually sign the register, but you can make your wishes clear before this.
If you are a parent reading this, then please include your child in these conversations, in a simple and appropriate way, but so they know what yours and their own wishes are.
If doctors know I’m on the Organ Donor Register, will they give up on me faster if I am in a position to donate?
Don’t feel silly or bad for thinking this though, it’s perfectly natural to want the best care.
We can assure you though, doctors will treat EVERYONE, in the same way, they will always do absolutely everything they can to save your life. There is actually a separate team that deals with organ donation – not the same as the team who are treating you. The team for organ donation doesn’t come to speak to the family until the patient has been pronounced brain stem or circulatory dead (and is being kept on life support until the organs can be removed). Doctors are there to save and prolong life and will do so as much and as best as they can- No Matter What!
What does my religion say about Organ Donation?
No major religion explicitly disagrees with organ donation. However, it is really up to each person to interpret what they think their religion is saying. It can be a sensitive topic, but that is why it is important to have OPEN conversations about organ donation. At the end of the day, organ donation is about doing what you can to help other people when you die. You have to decide whether that is something your morals and beliefs support, regardless – or perhaps because of – your religion.
If I register to be an organ donor, can my family overrule my choice?
Even if you are on the register, your family’s wishes will be taken into consideration by the doctors and transplant team. It is for this reason, that it is crucial you have a conversation with your family about your wishes after your death.
This doesn’t have to be a negative conversation. In fact, being open about what you want to happen when you aren’t around can help remove some of the fear and worry associated with death.
If you are on the Organ Donor Register, and your family is consulted and they are against donation, the Specialist Organ Donation Nurses and the doctors will try their best to help the family see that this was your choice – to help others. But, at the end of the day, currently, until there is a change of law, their request will be put first.
Do I have to carry an organ donor card so that doctors know my wishes?
No, you don’t have to carry a card, but it can be a good conversation starter and we are always keen for people to have the conversations about organ donation with family and friends.
The doctors will be able to see if you are on the register and if you are a candidate for donating they will have the conversation with your family.
The most important thing is to discuss and make your wish to be an organ donor to your family and friends, and sign the register.
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