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Life after death

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Author: Holly Hannigan, Posted: Wednesday, 24th October 2018, 09:00

There are around 6,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK and, on average, three people in need of an organ transplant die each day.

The current method of registering as an organ donor means that you must contact the NHS organ donor register and give them your details. What is surprising is that over 80% of UK adults say they would definitely consider donating their organs, but only 37% are registered as donors.

This is a huge difference but luckily the government have taken notice and have decided to put through a new legislation, which they have indicated could be in place by April 2020.

The new system will be much like the one already in place in Wales and is known as ‘deemed consent’ or the ‘opt out system’. This means that everyone will be considered a potential donor, unless they have registered on the NHS Organ Donation website to say that they do not wish to donate their organs.

There are three types of organ donation:

1. Donation following Brain Death (DBD)

This person would have had a severe brain injury and permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe.

2. Donation following Circulatory Death (DCD)

This is when a person has irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs after a cardiac arrest, from which the person cannot or should not be resuscitated.

3. Living Donation

Whilst you are still alive you can choose to donate through a medical operation. Kidneys are the most common living donation, and in some cases a small section of your liver or lung, discarded bone from a hip or knee replacement, or amniotic membrane (placenta) can be donated.

What can I donate?

The organs that can be donated are kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and the small bowel. Tissues such as skin, tendons, bone, heart valves and corneas can also be donated to help rebuild the lives of severely injured people.

Having open and honest discussions with family members about your beliefs and decisions is very important, as they will always be consulted should donation be possible. Many people find it difficult to discuss death and worst case scenarios, but the more we have these frank discussions the easier they will become.

To know that their loss has resulted in someone else being given a chance of life again can bring many people comfort, especially as a single organ donor can save up to eight lives and a single tissue donor can enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

Whatever laws are in place where you live, and whatever your own decision is about organ donation, this new legislation will take time to go through, but will hopefully result in saving thousands of lives.

If you’d like to find out more about organ donation, visit the links below:

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