Organ Donation Week (4- 10 September) highlights the importance of blood and organ donation
While 96% of us would take an organ if needed, only 29% of us are on the Organ Donor Register.
‘People waiting for transplants depend on people being willing to donate their organs and sadly, on average, three people die every day across the UK due to a shortage of donated organs,’ says Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant.
The need for donations
In the UK, fewer than 6,000 people a year die in circumstances where they can become a donor and many are unregistered. There are currently 6,342 people on the UK transplant waiting list and during the last financial year over 400 people on the waiting list died. The most commonly transplanted organs are the heart, kidney, lungs and liver. But the pancreas and small bowel can be transplanted too, along with tissues such as corneas, heart valves, skin, bone and tendons.
Joining the Register expresses your wish and legal authorisation to donate organs. Everyone who is legally competent can register, irrespective of age and health. However, you cannot become an organ donor if you have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), cancer that has spread in the last 12 months or HIV (although you may be able to donate to another person who has HIV). In England, although children can register, their parents or guardians are still asked for consent before donation occurs. Donation of organs usually occurs after brain stem death (permanent loss of brain activity) or circulatory death (irreversible loss of heart and lung function).
In 2016/17, 950 people became living donors. Living donors can donate a kidney, a small part of their liver or discarded bone (after a replacement operation). If you have a planned caesarean, you can donate blood from the umbilical cord after birth. This contains stem cells that can treat life-threatening diseases like leukaemia.
Living donation is particularly vital for the 5,000 people in the UK who need a kidney transplant. Last year, more than 250 patients died waiting for a kidney.
How to register
You can register online at organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate/ or at your GP surgery. You can also register when applying for a driving licence, European Health Insurance card (EHIC) or Boots Advantage card.