Organ Donation: The ultimate bequest

Organ Donation: The ultimate bequest

When thinking about end of life matters, have you thought about organ and tissue donation? An organ donor can save and transform up to nine lives and a tissue donor can potentially help dozens of people.


There are currently around 7,000 people in the UK on the waiting list for a transplant. This figure changes constantly as people join and leave the waiting list and there are many more patients than this who need a transplant. On average three people a day die in the UK in need of a transplant because there are not enough organs available.


Most organ donors are patients who die as a result of a brain haemorrhage, severe head injury, or stroke and who are on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. Patients who die in hospital but are not on a ventilator can, in some circumstances donate some organs. There are very few barriers to tissue donation, which is the gift of tissue such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves to help others. Most people can donate and unlike organs, it may be possible to donate tissue up to 48 hours after a person has died.


Age is not a barrier to being an organ donor. You can also register if you have an illness or long-term condition.


If you would like to help someone after death, here is what you should do:


If you live in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland


Join the NHS Organ Donor Register

Visit or contact 0300 123 23 23.


Let those closest to you know about your decision

If you die in circumstances where donation is possible, your next of kin could be asked to support your decision to be a donor. This would remove the burden of your families having to make this decision at a difficult time.


Fewer than 5,000 people each year die in circumstances where they can donate their organs, so the NHS needs to ensure that every potential donor who wants to donate is not prevented from doing so because they’ve not told their family.


If you live in Wales


You don’t need to do anything.

As of 1 December 2015 Wales changed the way people over the age of 18 became an organ donor. Providing you meet certain mental and demographic criteria and you haven’t registered a decision to opt-in or opt-out of organ donation, you will be treated as having no objection to being an organ donor. This is called deemed consent. You can choose to donate certain organs and tissues, and you can choose to opt-out completely. This can be done online or by ringing 0300 123 23 23.



You can find lots more information on the NHS Blood and Transplant organ donation website, the Welsh Government Organ Donation Wales website or by contacting the Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23.


Kim Bird is the founder of the comparison and review site About the Funeral and Editor of the bereavement support and funeral planning magazine, Day by Day.

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