Becoming an organ donor can be a big decision. Donating organs can mean the difference between life and death for many people suffering from life-threatening illnesses. In 2016 alone, 457 people died while on the active transplant waiting list, all of whom could have been saved with the help of more donors. In some cases, the diseases treated by transplant are not life-threatening, but your donation could help prevent a person losing their sight.
At the moment, people living in England need to either add their name to the NHS organ donor register or let their family or friends know that they would like to become a donor. This is contrary to the situation in Wales and Scotland, where you are automatically added to the register unless you choose to opt-out.
Donating Organs – Which Organs Can Be Donated?
When you choose to join the organ donor register, you can dictate which organs you would be happy to donate. You can choose some or all of the following:
- Small bowel
Who Can Become An Organ Donor?
Essentially, almost anyone can become an organ donor as long as you have healthy organs to donate. There is no age limit in most circumstances, but there are some medical conditions that could prevent you from donating organs. These include:
- HIV – however, you may be able to donate to another person who is HIV positive
- Cancer that has spread in the last 12 months
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Age restrictions apply in the following cases:
- You cannot donate your cornea if you are over 80 years old
- You cannot donate heart valves and tendons if you are over 60 years old.
Parents can also consent for their children’s organs to be donated if they are under the age of 16 or 18, depending upon where they are in the UK.
How To Become An Organ Donor
Since England works on an opt-in scheme, you should join the NHS organ donor register if you wish to donate your organs. The process is quick and simple and can be completed online in just 2 minutes. Otherwise, you can call 0300 123 23 23 for more information or for other ways to register.
The organ donor register online form will ask for basic personal information such as name, age, address, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It will also ask whether you would like to donate all organs, or you can specify which ones you are happy to donate.
Importance of Informing Friends And Family
Informing your friends and family that you have chosen to become an organ donor is an essential part of the process. The media have recently reported how more than 450 relatives or organ donors did not allow their loved ones’ organs to be donated because they were unaware of their wishes. The organs of these people could have greatly reduced the number of deaths resulting from a lack of donors.
Statistics have shown that on average, around 3 people die per week waiting for organ donors. Choosing to donate your organs to those who need them costs you nothing, and does not affect your day-to-day life in any way. Registering takes just 2 minutes of your time, and you could one day be responsible for saving some else’s life. The UK is in desperate need of more donors, so discuss your decision with your family and join the NHS donor register today.