How Organ Donation saves lives

30th August 2019

Organ donations have the power to save lives. Even just one donor can save up to nine lives. Despite the donation consent rate in the UK rising to 66% in 2017-18, there are 6,500 people waiting for transplants that might never come. Need is still high. Signing up to donate gives people who need help the chance of a longer, happier life.

You can register to donate online or by calling the NHS 24-hour donor line on 0300 123 23 23; otherwise, you can sign up when you register with a GP, for a driving licence, or for an EHIC card.

When the topic of organ donation surfaces, people tend to think of donations that come from a deceased donor (i.e. important organs we cannot live without, such as the heart and lungs). These are important donations, and the majority of people can register to be an organ donor in this capacity. Only a few restrictions apply to registering to donate — Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and the risk of transferring infection or cancer — otherwise the decision will be made under strict medical consideration when the time comes. However, a second kind of donation exists: living donation. This kind of donation involves organs and tissues that are either able to regenerate themselves to restore full function (such as the liver, blood, and bone marrow) or ones that leave the body functioning well even without them (a single kidney, for example).

Every kind of donation requires serious thought, but certain donations require more risk assessment than others. Beyond the normal restrictions and requirements for giving blood, donating it is a relatively straightforward and harmless practice. Donating a liver or one of your kidneys, however, poses a greater risk to the well-being of both the donor and the recipient because they require surgical procedures and proper aftercare (and the typical risks of major surgery apply). All applications to donate are properly and carefully assessed by experts and will not be approved unless it is safe to do so for both the donor and recipient. If you are interested in becoming a living donor, be sure to talk it through with your doctor and find out all you need to know to be safe.

Consider signing up to donate and remember to have the discussion with family members to ensure your wishes are known should anyone else be called upon to decide. They are serious conversations, but ones well worth having for the benefit of those who truly need help. Register to donate; register to save lives.