In the UK, organ donation is handled on an opt-out system. This means that unless you register that you do not want your organs donated, it is assumed you are happy to donate your organs after death. That being said, you do still have a choice whether you want to donate your organs or not.
A decision like this is very personal, and many people do prefer not to donate their organs due to religious reasons or personal preferences. However, in this article, we will discuss common misconceptions about organ donation.
What Is Organ Donation?
Organ donation is something that can happen when you are alive or shortly after your death. Your healthy organs are given to someone whose organs are damaged through injury or disease. In this article, we will only discuss organ donation after death. Organ donation is only possible if you die in the hospital or an intensive care unit. This is because the medical staff can preserve your organs while they find a recipient.
If you do not opt out of organ donation, then any of your organs may be donated, including:
- Intestinal organs
- Eyes – cornea only
- Rectus fascia
- Arteries/veins/blood vessels
How Do I Opt Out?
Visit the NHS Organ Donor Register Online to register your decision. Medical staff will consult this register after your death. Your family or friends cannot override this decision. There is no deadline for registering your decision regarding organ donation. You can change your mind at any time.
What If I Forgot to Opt Out?
If you have not opted out on the register, make sure your loved ones know how you feel. Medical staff will consult your next of kin if there is no decision on the register. They can share your wishes with the medical staff.
Can I Register My Intention to Donate Organs?
Yes, but the medical staff will still discuss organ donation with your family. Even if you have registered to donate your organs, your next of kin can still prevent organ donation.
Should I Tell My Loved Ones About My Organ Donation Decision?
Yes, whether you want your organs donated or not, you should discuss this with your family. The moments after your death are overwhelming for your loved ones, and the decision whether to donate your organs or not is very difficult if they receive no guidance. By sharing your wishes, you take some of the stress away from them and ensure your wishes are followed. Depending on the views of your loved ones, they may be reluctant to support your decision, so be sure to tell them that it is something important to you.
Medical staff will always consult your family when discussing organ donation if you have not opted out by registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This ensures that your wishes and the wishes of your family are respected along with any religious beliefs.
Will Organ Donation Impact My Family’s Grieving?
Medical staff are really respectful when conducting organ harvests. They will ensure your family know what is happening and that the process does not impact any religious customs. The harvest surgery needs to happen as quickly as possible after death, but your family will be able to spend time with your body after the surgery. The medical team will close the surgical incisions, wash, and dress the body after the surgery to preserve dignity and sensitivity for you and your loved ones.
Your body will be sent to the funeral home after the organ harvest, and the funeral home will ensure the body is ready for burial or cremation. If you donate your organs, you may still have an open casket funeral if you wish. The abdominal cavity is covered in white bandages after the harvest surgery, and the funeral home will clothe the body in preparation for the presentation and funeral.
Will Organ Donation Cost My Family Anything?
No, it will not cost you or your family any extra. You and your family will also not receive any payment for organ donation. In the UK, it is illegal to trade organs for financial gain.
What Are the Benefits of Organ Donation?
The main benefit of organ donation is that your healthy organs can help save lives, often multiple lives. People with severe illnesses or injury can go on to live for decades more because of the gift of organ donation. These people have loved ones who care about them too and have often been seriously unwell for a number of years.
Your family may also find comfort in knowing that there were some positives to your death. It can help the grieving process if they know that you were able to help someone live. Of course, this depends on the beliefs of your loved ones.
How Are Organs Matched to a Recipient?
Organs are matched by blood type, tissue type, and organ size. Often the best matches will come within the same ethnic group. Before the opt out system was introduced in the UK, there were a lack of organ donors from minority backgrounds.
What If I Am Under the Age of 18?
The opt out system does not apply to those under the age of 18. Instead, your parents will be asked if they consent to organ donation. Be sure to talk to your family and discuss your wishes with them. They will have the ultimate decision.
Will My Organs Definitely Be Donated?
Not necessarily. Your organs will only be viable for donation if they are healthy following your death. A team of experts will check the condition of your organs to see which ones are healthy enough for transplantation. Then your organs will be checked to see if they match anyone on the transplant list. The transplant must occur within a very short window after death, so if there is no match, the donation may not go ahead.
If you died due to a disease or have a blood condition, the likelihood of blood donation is rare. Only healthy organs are considered to reduce the chance of passing anything onto the recipient.