Organ donation – Life after Death
Did you know that around 1,000 people die every year while waiting for a potentially lifesaving organ transplant?
As with blood donation, the UK is experiencing a serious shortage of organ donors. In fact, while 90% of people believe that donating an organ is the right thing to do, just 30% of them are actually signed up to the Organ Donor Register. And these figures only get more worrying when you take into account some recent statistics:
- On average, three people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant, because of the lack of organs.
- It is estimated that around 250 people are on the waiting list for a transplant at any one time, a figure which is only set to grow due to our ageing population and an increase in kidney failure.
- One organ donor can save the lives of several people.
So why are so few people signing up to the Organ Donor Register?
Part of the reason could be a simple lack of awareness about the facts surrounding organ donation, or even how easy it is to register in the first place.
Know the facts
When you register as an organ donor, your organs will only be taken in the event of your death. You can also choose which organs and/or tissues you would like to donate if you would prefer not to give them all. These include:
- Small bowel
The Organ Donor Register can be joined either by using the NHS donor line (0300 123 23 23) or by registering online. It’s a really easy process, and you can even amend your details or, if you wish, remove your name from the Register on the very same website.
Once you have registered, your details will go live on a confidential and secure database which medical staff can use, in the event of your death, to determine whether or not you wanted to donate.
Opt-in or opt-out?
What many people aren’t aware of is that the Organ Donor Register actually works on an opt-in basis. You aren’t automatically registered at birth or at a certain age, so you must manually register your details to start saving lives. However, this is about to change in Wales next year, as the Human Transplantation Wales Act comes into force on 1st December 2015. This will make Wales the only UK country operating on an opt-out basis.
The Act was created in an effort to increase the number of organs and tissues available for transplant, by raising the number of donors by about 25%. If successful, the average number of transplants anticipated from fifteen additional donors would be something akin to twenty six kidneys, ten livers, two hearts and four lungs.
Organ donation myths
Despite all of these facts, there are still some very surprising and quite bizarre myths surrounding organ donation.
The first is that patients may take on the personality traits of their donor following a transplant. A man in Leicester even once reported that he acquired a love of baking, shopping and dogs after receiving a kidney from his wife.
These claims are nothing more than coincidence though, while other myths – such as being too old to donate your organs – are completely unfounded. In fact, in the past a 104 year old has donated their corneas, an 85 year old has donated their liver and a 68 year old has donated a lung! It’s never too late.
Join the Register; save a life
One of the key aims of the NHSBT (NHS Blood and Transplant organisation) is to increase organ donation by 60% in the period from 2016-2017, and the good news is that by taking a few minutes of your time to register you could not only help them to achieve this aim, but help to save more than one life.
If this post has helped to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding organ donation and spurred you on to become a donor yourself, simply visit the NHS’s organ donation website to register your details today.