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11 Can you donate an organ while you are still alive?
Yes, in some cases. The shortage of organs has led to an increasing number of organ donations by living people.
The most common organ donated by a living person is a kidney as a healthy person can lead a completely normal life with only one functioning kidney. Kidneys transplanted from living donors have a better chance of long-term survival than those transplanted from people who have died. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being that the donor is alive and healthy. Nearly one in three of all kidney transplants are from a living donor.
Part of a liver can be transplanted and it may also be possible to donate a segment of a lung and, in a very small number of cases, part of the small bowel. For all forms of living donor transplants the risk to the donor must be considered very carefully. Before a living donor transplant can go ahead there are strict regulations to meet and a thorough process of assessment and discussion.
Donors are often a close relative but may also be individuals who are not related but have an established emotional relationship with the recipient such as a partner or close friend. Sometimes a donor and a recipient may be incompatible with each other because of blood group or tissue-type and in this case it may be possible for them to be paired with another donor and recipient in the same situation so that each recipient will benefit from a transplant that they would otherwise not have had (paired donation). Where more than two pairs are involved in the swap it is called "pooled" donation. Donors may also offer to give a kidney to someone who is on the waiting list for a transplant but whom they have never met (non-directed altruistic donation).
The Human Tissue Act 2004 established the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). One of the HTA's roles is to regulate living donor transplants in the UK.
You can find out more about living kidney donation by reading our leaflet Could I be a living kidney donor? Available from the Organ Donor Line (0845 60 60 400) or the UK Transplant website: Click here for details
If you would like to know more about paired/pooled or altruistic kidney donation contact your nearest kidney transplant centre. Details of kidney transplant centres are available on the UK Transplant website: Click here for details
You can find out more about the work of the HTA, including a leaflet on living donor transplants, on their website: www.hta.gov.uk.
12 Why do I need to make a decision about whether to become a donor?
In the UK organs and tissue from a potential donor will only be used if that is their wish. You can indicate your wishes in a number of ways such as telling a relative or close friend, by carrying an organ donor card or recording your wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Putting your name on the NHS Organ Donor Register makes it easier for the NHS to establish your wishes and for those closest to you in life to follow them.
If your wishes are not clear, the person closest to you in life will be asked what they think you would have wanted, so it is important that you make sure they are aware of your views on organ donation.
13 What is the NHS Organ Donor Register?
The NHS Organ Donor Register is, quite literally, a life-saver.
It is a confidential, computerised database which holds the wishes of more than 14.6 million people who have decided that, after their death, they want to leave a legacy of life for others. The register is used to help establish whether a person wanted to donate and, if so, what.
14 Do I need to register if I have a donor card?
Yes. Cards can and do get lost or damaged and you may not be carrying yours when you are taken to hospital. Adding your name to the register is a more permanent way of expressing your wishes. You can still carry a card if you wish to. Don't forget to tell your relatives what your wishes are.
15 Will my name and address be given to other organisations?
No. This information will only be used by NHS Blood and Transplant to register your wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register and by health care professionals in the event of your death. Your personal details will not be passed to any individual or organisation without seeking your explicit consent.
16 I'm not sure if I've already registered, what should I do?
Either write in and ask (the confidential nature of the register means that we cannot tell you over the phone) or apply to join and our system will identify if you are already on the register and update any relevant details.
Send an e-card
Once you’ve joined the register send one of our campaign e-cards to your family and friends to let them know!
Click here to send an e-card
Black and Asian Communities
Why tell a loved one?
In Wales, like the rest of the UK, most organ donations come from heartbeating donors.
Click here to find out more.