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Have you ever thought about donating your organs to help someone after your death? This page tells you what you need to consider.

This page takes around 7 minutes to read.

Why is organ donation important?

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An organ transplant can dramatically improve or save someone’s life, and a single donor could save or improve the lives of up to nine people.

The heart, lungs, liver, small bowel, pancreas and kidneys can all be transplanted. Tissue donation, such as corneas, skin, bone, tendons, and heart valves can also be donated.

To donate organs, a person needs to die in hospital in specific circumstances. Because of this very few people die in circumstances where donation is possible, even though millions of people are registered donors.

Black and South Asian patients in particular wait longer for a transplant than the rest of the population. Although people can receive a transplant from someone of any ethnicity, a transplant is more likely to be successful if the donor and recipient are from the same ethnic group.

It’s important that people who want to be donors make their decision known and talk to their family about this.

Who can be an organ donor?

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Anyone can register to become an organ donor after death, and there is no age limit.

There are very few medical conditions that can prevent you from becoming an organ donor. These are:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Ebola virus disease
  • Active cancer
  • HIV – although in some cases people with HIV have been able to donate organs to other people with the condition

Healthcare professionals will decide in each case whether a person's organs and tissue are suitable for donation, and family members will also be consulted.

How to register as an organ donor

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The decision to become an organ donor after you have died is very personal. The NHS Organ Donation website has answers to the most commonly asked questions about organ and tissue donation if you are unsure.

The laws around organ donation are different across the UK. To check the latest visit the NHS page on organ donation laws.

You can change your decision or register to be an organ donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Your family will be asked before the donation takes place, so it is very important to let them know what your wishes are. Doctors will never go ahead with an organ donation if family members object.

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The 2020 Dying Matters kick off event in Birmingham
Real people, real stories

It's put a smile back on our faces when we've thought about those babies that are going to grow up because of our Dad

Angie Matthews, Compton Care
Watch her video recorded at a Dying Matters event