Becoming an Organ Donor
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“How do I become an organ donor?”

About 3,000 people have an organ transplant every year – this may sound a lot, but there are about 7,000 people waiting for an organ, with up to 400 people per year in the UK dying whilst waiting for an organ. Whilst donating an organ involves the painful loss of a loved one, the benefits for the recipient are huge. Donating your organs is one of the best ways of helping others after your death.

The first transplant took place in 1954 with a kidney being used. The first heart transplant took place in South Africa in 1967. One person can help several others. With the recent advances in medical technology, two peoples sight can be restored using the cornea – the clear part of the front of the eye. The heart, the lungs, the liver, the small bowel and both kidneys can be transplanted to help others.

Organs are only removed from a person once they have died. There is no danger of taking organs from someone who is still alive because there are very strict rules as to the criteria used to diagnose death – 2 senior doctors have to do the tests at different times and the tests are very detailed. It is usual for the people who donate their organs to be on a ventilator. They are often victims of brain haemorrhages, road traffic accidents or strokes. Once death has been confirmed, the organs are kept supplied with oxygen by keeping the person on the ventilator, even though they have legally died. This ensures that the organs are in the best possible form before they are removed prior to donation.

Of course, some people can donate an organ when they are still alive – a kidney, or bone marrow, for example. Almost a third of all kidney transplants come from living donors – often family. It is important for the donor and the recipient to have the same blood group or tissue-type to ensure that the organ is not ‘rejected’ buy the recipient.

In the UK it is up to the donor to say that they wish to donate their organs upon their death. If you want to donate, you can get on the NHS organ donor register by either filling out the form on the internet, or calling 0845 60 60 400. In addition you can carry the organ donor card – and tell your family and friends that you have one.

For more information about Organ Donors click these links: