1. ITV Report

Organ Donation: Everything you need to know

The NHS Organ Donor Register lets you choose whether you want or do not want to donate your organs after your death. Credit: PA

There are around 6,500 people in the UK waiting for a transplant. Some of them will be matched to a suitable donor. Sadly, many won't.

What is organ donation?

Organ donation involves removing an organ or tissue for it to be transplanted to someone in need. Transplants can save or greatly enhance the lives of other people. However, they completely depend on donors and their families consenting to organ or tissue donation. One donor can save the life of several people, restore the sight of two others and improve the quality of life for many more.

What organs can be donated?

Most organs are donated by deceased donors, but some organs, like the kidney and liver, can be donated by living donors. It is up to you what you decide to donate.

Living donation

Living donation usually requires surgery, but potential donors are carefully assessed to determine their suitability and results have proved successful.

Living donations include:

  • Kidneys - Around a third of all kidney transplants in the UK are donated by a living person as a healthy person can lead a normal life with one
  • Liver - Part of a liver from a living person can be donated because the liver can regenerate itself, although this is less common than living kidney donation
  • Tissue - those undergoing hip operations can donate part of their thigh bone, while amniotic membrane (part of the placenta) can be donated after caesarian section to be used in eye operations

How to become a living donor

To learn more about living organ donation, visit the NHSBT website here, email or contact your local transplant centre.

Deceased donation

Giving organs and tissue after your death can help someone live or improve their health and quality of life. At the moment in England, organs can only be used if explicit approval is given, either by signing the NHS Organ Donor Register or if the deceased had told a family member of their desire to donate.

Deceased donations include:

  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel
  • Corneas
  • Tissue

How to join the NHS Organ Donor Register

The NHS Organ Donor Register lets you choose whether you want or do not want to donate your organs after your death. You can register here, it only takes two minutes.

The opt-out system

Plans for a new law in favour of an organ donor opt-out system is being backed by government.

Currently, people have to register to become an organ donor, but the new bill will mean everyone is registered as a potential donor unless they state otherwise. A similar opt-out system is already in place in Wales.

A survey by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found that 74% of people are in favour of such a system - which could save hundreds of lives every year.

The poll of 2,000 people comes ahead of today's debate in the House of Commons which could see such a system introduced in England.

The government has said it "wholeheartedly" supported the new bill, which will be named Max's Law after nine-year-old Max Johnson, who benefited from a heart transplant.

Have your say

The government is carrying out a public consultation on the issue of organ donation and the proposed opt-out system. Have your say here - the consultation ends on 6 March.