Organ donation is a personal and serious decision to make that involves the express wishes of the donor and many questions exist around the processes of donating organs.
Below are the important guidelines for organ donation supplied by the Organ Donor Foundation.
Your most important role as a donor is to tell your family of your wish to be an organ and tissue donor As a registered organ and tissue donor, your job is not yet done! We cannot stress enough how vitally important it is to make sure that your family knows of your wish to be an organ and tissue donor.
Why is it important?
At the time of your passing, a specialist transplant medical professional will approach your family to ask for consent for the donation of your organs and tissue. If your family does not know of your wish to be an organ and tissue donor and especially at a time when they are grieving and suffering a tremendous loss, they are more likely to say NO rather than YES to consent. This in turn means that your organs and tissue will not be donated. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you have a long discussion with your loved ones (next of kin) to make sure that they fully understand and respect your wish to be an organ and tissue donor.
What happens if my family does not give consent?
Most family members want to honour their loved one’s wishes, but when they don’t know what these wishes were, then they often feel uncomfortable saying YES when approached for consent. In this case, your organs and tissue will not be used for donation, as South African law dictates that a donation cannot take place unless the family has given their consent.
Who can be an organ/tissue donor?
Any person who is in good health and is clear of defined chronic diseases that may adversely affect the recipient, will be considered as a possible donor.
Is there any cost involved in signing up as an organ or tissue donor?
No, it costs nothing to sign up as an organ/tissue donor.
What is the difference between organ and tissue donation?
An organ donation takes place after an individual has been declared brain dead, but is still being supported on a ventilator, whereas tissue retrieval can still take place several hours and even days after death.
Which organs can be transplanted?
Your heart, liver and pancreas can save 3 lives and your kidneys and lungs can save up to 4 people. You can save 7 lives.
Can I donate an organ while I am alive?
Yes, there are two types of live donors. The first type is an elective donor where the donation takes place between family members because the blood groups and tissue types are more compatible to ensure a higher success rate. The second type is an altruistic donor where the donor and recipient are strangers and both parties never know who the other is.
Which organs can I donate while alive?
You can donate a kidney or partial liver.
Which tissue can be transplanted?
You can help up to 50 people by donating your corneas, skin, bone, tendons and heart valves.
How do tissue transplants improve lives?
Donated bone and tendons can prevent amputation, restore mobility and reduce pain. This type of donation also enhances fracture healing, replaces torn ligaments and is used to repair spinal deformities. Donated heart valves can save a life by improving heart function. Donated cornea replaces a diseased cornea, restores vision and prevents blindness. Donated skin is used to help burn victims by preventing infection, promoting healing and reducing scarring.
Are tissue transplants common?
Bone tissue transplants are the second most common transplants performed on patients, second only to blood transfusions. Many thousands of patients receive allograft tissue every year, most of which comes from non-living donors whose loved ones consented to donation.
Can I donate tissue while I am alive?
Yes, at the time of hip replacement surgery you can donate the femoral head, which would normally be discarded. Donated femoral heads are used to treat bone cancer, repair bone defects during surgery, can be turned into bone products and act as a reconstructive graft for both adults and children.
Can I agree to donate only some organs or tissue and not others?
Yes. Please inform your family which organs/tissue you do not wish to donate.
Will I know who receives my loved one’s organs/tissue?
For privacy and legislative reasons, donors and recipients are not identified.
Does my family pay for the cost of donation?
No, the donor and his/her family will not incur any costs. The hospital or Tissue Bank will cover all medical expenses from the moment your family has given consent for the donation of organs/tissue.
Would my family receive compensation for donating my organs/tissue?
No. Organ/tissue donation is a gift.
How do doctors know I am really dead?
Two doctors, who are completely independent of the transplant team, are mandated by law to perform detailed tests before a person can be declared brain dead. The criteria for brain death is very strictly adhered to and accepted medically, legally and ethically in South Africa and internationally.
Does being a donor delay the funeral?
No. As soon as the donated organs/tissue has been removed, the body is returned to the family to bury or cremate.
Does organ/tissue donation leave my body disfigured?
No. The utmost respect and dignity is given to the donor at all times. The recovery of organs and tissue is carried out with great care by surgeons and trained staff and the process does not change the way the body looks.
Are there religious objections to transplantation?
Most religions support organ and tissue donation, as it is consistent with life preservation. If unsure, you should talk to your spiritual leader.
Can I change my mind?
Yes. You can change your mind at any time. Simply throw away your organ donor card and
remove the sticker from your ID document and driver’s license. Please also inform your family that you no longer wish to be an organ and tissue donor.
Register as an organ donor here. Or call the toll free number: 0800 22 66 11