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The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential and secure database that records the decision of everyone who does or does not want to donate their organs and/or tissue after they die. It’s also the database that medical staff will consult to see if a person has registered their decision to be, or not to be, a donor during their lifetime.
Organ donation means giving one or some of your organs to help someone who needs a transplant.
Transplants can save or greatly enhance the lives of other people; but this relies on donors and their families agreeing to donate their organ.
There are two types of organ donation; deceased and living.
If you know you want to help others when you die, by signing up as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register you are providing legal consent / authorisation that you are happy for your organs to be used. If when you die, your organs could potentially be used, your family would be approached to discuss organ donation and asked to support your decision to become an organ donor.
A large proportion of people across the UK who die in circumstances where their organs could potentially be used, have not recorded any decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Their families are still sensitively approached to discuss organ donation, but unless the person lives in Wales and consent can be deemed under Welsh law, their families would be asked to provide the consent/authorise for donation to go ahead. Your family will always be asked to support organ donation going ahead, and so it is vital that they know what you want to happen.
An organ donor can save or improve up to nine lives
A deceased organ donor can donate their kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, small bowel, corneas and tissue. A living organ donor can donate a kidney or part of their liver.
When registering as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register, you can choose to donate some, or all of your organs. You can specify which organs/tissue you do or do not want to donate and you can change your mind at any time. You can update your preferences online or call 0300 123 2323.
If you die in circumstances that mean organ donation is a possibility specialist healthcare professionals will discuss organ donation with your next of kin as part of your end of life care discussion. The medical team will access the NHS Organ Donor Register to establish your donation decision, before discussing it with your family. By telling your family you want to be an organ donor, in the event of your death, you can relieve them of the burden of having to make the decision at such a difficult time. So, tell them your decision, let them know you want to be an organ donor.
Having an illness or long-term condition doesn’t prevent you from registering as an organ and tissue donor. If you die in circumstances where organ donation is possible, medical professionals will review your medical and lifestyle history and make a decision on the suitability of your organs and/or tissue. Even if you can’t donate your organs, most people can still give sight to others or donate other tissue.
Anyone of any age can join the NHS Organ Donor Register. If a child registers under the age of 12, a letter is sent to the parent/ guardian. Aged 12 to 16, a letter is sent to the child advising them that they should seek approval from their parent/guardian. Over the age of 16 a general registration letter is sent to the young person.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, parental consent is required at the time of donation until the age of 18 years. In Scotland self authorisation can be given from the age of 12 years.
In Wales, your consent cannot be deemed to have been given unless you are over 18 years old.
An organ donor card can be carried as a symbol of your decision to save lives through organ donation.
We send an organ donor card to everybody who registers to donate for the first time.
If you amend your details or re-register we don’t send you a new donor card. If you have lost your donor card and would like a replacement you canprint your own organ donor card.
Alternatively, contact the Organ Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Why not share a photo of yourself with your donor card on social media, and be proud of your amazing decision.
You do not need to carry an Organ Donor Card for your organs to be donated, as medical staff will always consult the NHS Organ Donor Register in the first instance.
People from Black and Asian communities have a higher incidence of conditions such as diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, making them more likely to need a transplant.
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic patients make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list. On average, these patients will wait longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient due to the lack of suitable organs.
Organ donation is done anonymously with a donor’s organs going to patients who are well matched.
Although some Black and Asian patients are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.
At the current time, Wales has a different organ donation system to the rest of the UK. People living in Wales have three choices:
If you want to be a donor, you can either register to be a donor (opt in) on the NHS Organ Donor Register or do nothing
If you do nothing, you will be treated as having no objection to becoming a donor. This is called ‘deemed consent’
If you do not want to be a donor, you can register not to be a donor (opt out) on the NHS Organ Donor Register
You can also appoint a representative to make the decision for you after your death.
The Governments in Scotland and England are progressing similar ‘deemed consent’ systems through their Parliaments but at the moment those in England and Scotland are still part of an ‘opt in’ system, and will be until the legislation has passed.
In summer 2018, the Government published a response to its consultation into the organ donation system in England.
The Government confirmed that under the proposed new system (commonly known as ‘deemed consent’ or ‘opt out’) everybody would be considered a potential organ donor unless they have added their details to the NHS Organ Donor Register to say that they do not wish to donate their organs or are in one of the excluded groups. They have provisionally indicated that the system may be in place in April 2020.
To record your decision to be an organ donor we recommend that you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your family that you want to be an organ donor,as they will need to support your decision when the time comes.
NHS Blood and Transplant is responsible for organ and tissue donation for altruistic purposes. If you would like your body to be used for scientific research after you die, please contact the Human Tissue Authority for guidance on how to arrange this.
All the major religions of the UK support the principle of organ donation and transplantation, and accept that organ donation is an individual choice.
The NHS will not pay the cost of the funeral. Funeral costs are met either by the family or from the person’s estate. Families in receipt of certain benefits may be able to get help with the cost of funerals.