11 Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About Organ Donation

1 May 2017, 09:46

Selena Gomez kidney

By Sam Prance

All the organ donation myths that it's time to put to bed...

Organ donation can seem pretty scary at first glance. We've all seen those TV shows (Grey's Anatomy, I'm looking at you) in which someone's life depends on a transplant and the dramatic music is blaring in the background.

However, in reality, it is nothing of the sort. Every day organ donations take place and over 25 million people in the UK are registered organ donors. It is simply the act of giving someone else an organ in order to save or improve their lives.

We're just not taught enough about organ donation at school and most 18-24 year olds have never discussed organ donation with anybody. With that in mind, we're here to bust any misconceptions about organ donation that you may have and make sure that you know all of the details about it, should you wish to become an organ donor.

1. Anyone can be an organ donor.


There are no age restrictions to organ donation. If you are under the age of 18 (or 12 in some places in the UK) you will need parental permission but, other than that, you are more than capable of donating organs and your family will be approached to support donation going ahead.

2. It is necessary to discuss organ donation with your family.


Even though anyone can sign up to be an organ donor, it is essential that you discuss organ donation with your family. If you pass away and are a willing donor, doctors will approach your family about organ donation to find out whether they support it. If you haven't already let your family know that you plan on donating your organs, they may not support the donation going ahead. However, if they know and you've discussed it with them beforehand, they are more likely to be fine with it.

3. You don't need to be related to someone to donate organs to them


A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) onSep 14, 2017 at 3:07am PDT


It may seem obvious but you don't need to be related to someone to donate organs to them. In fact, sometimes relatives aren't matches for each other and it depends on a variety of factors, for example, your blood type. When you're alive, you can choose to donate to people you know or to a stranger, but when you pass away all of the organs you choose to donate will be used to help save the lives of strangers in need.

4. Ethnicity matters though.


It sucks but a good transplant outcome is more likely if the donor and recipient are from the same ethnic group. As it stands, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK are at higher risk of developing conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and certain forms of hepatitis than white people. This makes them more likely to need a transplant. 30% of people waiting for a transplant across the UK are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

5. You can save up to nine lives.


You can donate your heart, liver, pancreas, small intestine, both lungs and both kidneys when you die. You can also donate tissues including skin, corneas, bone tissue, heart valves and blood vessels. Essentially your body is amazing and could save and improve the lives of many other people.

6. You're more likely to need an organ donation than to actually donate.


As it's only possible to donate organs when you die in specific circumstances, or in intensive care or A&E, registered organ donors often never donate their organs. As a result of this, there is more of a chance of you needing an organ donation than actually donating them. Can you believe?

7. Most religious groups support organ donation


All faiths vary on a personal basis but most major religions in the UK endorse organ donation. These include: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

8. You can donate some organs while you are alive.

It is possible to donate a kidney when you are alive. You can also donate part of your liver (your liver lobes). Just last year, Grown-ish actress Francia Raisa helped save the life of her friend Selena Gomez by donating one of her kidneys to her.

9. Doctors will always prioritise your life over organs.


It is always a hospital's priority to save a patient's life. Only when a medical team and a patient's family have decided that there is no further treatment that can help them, will their organs be considered for donation. 

10. There is a shortage of organ donors.


Even though 25 million people are signed up to be organ donors in the UK, there is still a shortage of donors for those who need them. The chances of someone dying in a hospital in circumstances where their organs can be used to help others are very slim and sometimes families don’t agree to donation going ahead. That is why it's SO important that more people commit to become organ donors and tell their families their decision. 

11. You can register to be an organ donor from the comfort of your own home.


Registering to be an organ donor only takes two minutes. You can do it online at: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or even give the NHS a call on 0300 123 23 23. It's that easy.

We’ve teamed up with the NHS to raise awareness of organ donation. Visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk to find out more information or join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter @NHSOrganDonor.