The ‘gift of life’

Organ donation saves and transforms thousands of lives each year, with even more lives improved by tissue donation. 

A transplant can be life-saving, or improve the health and quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illness, and their families and carers, whilst also bringing great comfort to donors’ families.

You are able to donate some organs while you are alive, for example; a kidney, or part of your liver. However, most organ and tissue donations will come from people who have died.

Every organ and tissue donation is precious as it saves and transforms lives, not just for the recipient, but also their family and friends. It is referred to as the ‘gift of life’.

Anyone can register a decision to donate their organs and tissue when they die, regardless of their age or medical conditions. 

Why are even more donors needed?

Not everyone who has expressed a wish to be a donor will be eligible to donate in the event of their death. To donate organs after death, a person needs to die in hospital in specific circumstances. This applies to only 1 in every 100 people, which highlights how every registration is so important.

And with only half of families agreeing to donation if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, family conversations are vital, as consent for donation rises to 9 out of 10 if loved ones have made their decision known. 

The number of transplants needed is rising due to an aging population and increases in illnesses such as diabetes, kidney, heart and liver disease.

Organ and tissue donation saves and transforms the lives of those awaiting a transplant, as well as their families and carers.  Hear from transplant recipients about the difference it has made to their lives.

What to expect: the organ donation pathway

Every effort will be made to save your life above all else

Healthcare professionals have a duty to save life wherever possible, but unfortunately, even after every effort has been made to save a patient’s life, this is not always possible.  

Only when End of Life care planning is started by the clinical team, is a referral made to the specialist organ donation nursing team.  These specialist nurses make a preliminary assessment of suitability for donation and the NHS Organ Donor Register is accessed to review any decisions a patient may have made in life.  The possibility of organ donation is then discussed with your family.

Death is confirmed in line with strict criteria

There are strict criteria in place in the United Kingdom to help those caring for the dying, by providing safe, timely and consistent criteria for the diagnosis of death.

Organs are never removed until a patient’s death has been confirmed in line with these criteria  and only when all the appropriate consents are in place.

As a donor, you will be treated with dignity and respect

The organ donation process involves a specialist team who ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation.  Only those organs and tissue specified by the donor and agreed with the family will be removed.

Specialist nurses always speak to family members to see if there are considerations around someone’s faith, beliefs or culture in respect to funeral plans. 

After donation, the body is returned to the family of the deceased in the same way as any death in a hospital where donation has not taken place. Families are given the opportunity to spend time with their loved one after the operation if they wish.

Register your decision

Donation is a personal decision and you have a choice about whether or not you want to donate. Whatever you decide, please record your organ donation decision here – it only takes 2 minutes.

And please tell your family and friends.