Q.1) What is Organ Donation?
Organ donation is when a person (can be dead or living donors) donates their organ(s) to someone else through transplantation.
Q.2) Living Donor? What is that?
OK, so basically, there are two types of organ donors. The first and most common is someone who is either brain dead or circulatory dead- these are just the two ways that a person can die that allows them to be a donor. The second type of organ donor is someone who is alive, and agrees to donate a kidney or a section of their liver, as we can survive with one kidney and the liver is the only organ which will grow back (amazing huh?!). They will undergo an operation to remove the organ or part of it, and it is then transplanted into the recipient. There are benefits and draw backs to each option, but living donors are becoming increasingly common as the shortage of organ donors is not matching the need for transplants.
Q.3) Which organs can be transplanted?
Put simply – most of them. The liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, small bowel, pancreas, corneas (part of the eye) and many more tissues such as valves, tendons and skin – even bone can be donated! You can tick which organs you would like to donate when you sign up to the donor register, and discuss it with your loved ones.
Q.4) Will donating my organs leave my body disfigured?
No. Simply, the answer is no. If you donate your corneas, your eyes don’t get taken out, if you donate your heart you won’t have a huge gash down you chest. This puts so many off donating their organs, and it is simply a myth. Yes, you will be left with some scars, but the surgeons who perform the surgery are incredibly respectful of the person who has passed away and agreed to donate their organs, and they manage to leave your body as untouched as possible. For people who want open casket funerals, this is still completely possible, and no one would even know you have donated your organs. At the end of the day though, isn’t saving someone else’s (or more than one) life worth a few small scars? I think so.
Q.5) Am I too old/young to be an organ donor?
There is no upper age limit for who can be an organ donor, there have been organ donors as old as 80. As long as you are on the register, the doctors will decide if your organs are suitable for donation. There is no lower age limit to who can be an organ donor – you may have heard that in 2015 a baby who was only hours old became the youngest donor ever when he sadly died after birth. However, you do have to be 12 to actually sign the register, but you can make your wishes clear before this! And if you are a parent reading this, then please include your child in these conversations, in a simple and appropriate way, but so they know what yours and their own wishes are!
Q.6) If doctors know I’m on the Organ Donor Register, will they give up on me faster if I am in a position to donate?
Absolutely not! Don’t feel silly or bad for thinking this though, it’s perfectly natural to want the best care. We can assure you though, doctors will treat EVERYONE in the same way, they will always do absolutely everything they can to save your life. There is actually a separate team that deals with organ donation – not the same as the team who are treating you. The team for organ donation doesn’t come to speak to the family until the patient has been pronounced brain stem or circulatory dead (and is being kept on life support until the organs can be removed). Doctors are there to save and prolong life, and will do so as much and as best as they can- No Matter What!
Q.7) What does my religion say about Organ Donation?
No major religion explicitly disagrees with Organ Donation. However, it is really up to each person to interpret what they think their religion is saying. It can be a sensitive topic, but this is the point of our campaign – to have OPEN conversations about organ donation. At the end of the day, organ donation is about doing what you can to help other people when you die. You have to decide whether that is something your morals and beliefs support, regardless – or perhaps because of – your religion.
Q.8) If I register to be an organ donor, can my family overrule my choice?
Well, legally if you are on the register, then your family can’t overturn that decision – but no doctor will ever go against the families wishes if they say no to donation. If your family refuses, then the Specialist Organ Donation Nurses and the doctors will try their best to help the family see that this was your choice – to help others. So, realistically – it is ALWAYS the family’s decision! This is precisely why talking to your family and friends about your decision for organ donation is so important! If everyone around you knows that you want to be a donor, then it becomes a lot easier for them to make that decision when they are already in an incredibly difficult situation. They can be PROUD that it was your choice to help others after your death. So, be LOUD!!!
Q.9) Do I have to carry an organ donor card so that doctors know my wishes?
You can, but you don’t have to. The doctors will speak to your family, as they are the ones who make the final decision, so it isn’t imperative that you carry a card. However, a card can be a good conversation starter if people see it in your wallet! Overall, the most important thing is to discuss and make your wish to be an organ donor clear to your family and friends, and sign the register.
Q.10) Didn’t find what you were looking for?
If you didn’t find the answer to your question, you can leave a comment below, where you can ask any other questions you have for us. You can also check the links to some other helpful information here.
Just remember to Live Loudly and Donate Proudly! 🙂
Other helpful links:
Northern Ireland Transplant Association