Organ & Tissue Donation

What is Organ& Tissue Donation?

Organ& Tissue donation is the donation of biological tissue or an organ of the human body, from a living or dead person to a living recipient in need of a transplantation. Transplantable organs and tissues are removed in a surgical procedure following a determination, based on the donor’s medical and social history, of which are suitable for transplantation.

  • What happens after a person is confirmed to be brain dead?
  • Do we have a say in which organs are donated?
  • What if a Coronal investigation is required as well?
  • How are the organs retrieved?
  • Is the body disfigured?
  • Can funeral arrangements proceed normally?
  • What are the religious opinions about organ and tissue donation?
  • Is the family told which organs and tissue were used and to whom they were given?
  • What support services are available for donor families?
  • References
  • Web Links
  • Publishing Information

After cardiac death of a Patient has been confirmed, those Patients can donate their eyes, heart valves and cardiac tissue, long bones, pelvis, tendons, ligaments and skin. In some cases some Patients after Cardiac Death has been confirmed, could also be a donor of major organs such as the kidneys, the liver and the lungs.

The situation after Brain Death has been confirmed is different as healthy organs such as the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the pancreas and tissues can be donated for transplantation and for research. If a person wishes to be a donor or if the Family of a brain dead Patient wishes to be a donor they are medically assessed at the time when Brain Death has been confirmed for their medical suitability to be an organ and/or tissue donor.

What happens after a person is confirmed to be brain dead?

Once Brain Death has been confirmed, members of the Intensive Care Medical team will meet with the immediate Family or NOK(Next of Kin) of the Patient who has been confirmed Brain dead. Once a Patient has been confirmed brain dead, the Medical Team will ask the Family if their loved one would have wanted to be an organ and/or tissue donor or if the Family would want them to donate some organs and tissues. If the Family agrees to organ& tissue donation of their brain dead loved one, a Donor Coordinator is working closely with the Family. The brain dead person usually remains in Intensive Care, attached to the ventilator for a number of hours(usually up to 24 hours) before being transferred to the operating theatre for the organ retrieval surgery.

Do we have a say in which organs are donated?

Yes, the decision is yours which organs and/or if any tissue is to be donated. Authorisation of the immediate Family and/or Next of Kin is necessary before organs and/or tissue can be donated.

The same procedure applies if your loved ones organs are not suitable for organ donation, but could be used for medical research.

What if a Coronal investigation is required as well?

In many cases brain death will be the result of a sudden accident or injury and may come with the jurisdiction of the Coroner. The Hospital staff will inform the family if the Coroner requires an autopsy. If an autopsy is required, organ and tissue donation may proceed with permission of the Coroner.

How are the organs retrieved?

Removal of organs is similar to any other type of surgery performed and is performed by skilled surgeons.

Is the body disfigured?

Besides the surgical incision there is no disfigurement of the body.

Can funeral arrangements proceed normally?

Yes. The family may make funeral and burial arrangements as they prefer.

What are the religious opinions about organ and tissue donation?

Most major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of caring and will leave the decision to the individual. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your religious advisor.

Is the family told which organs and tissue were used and to whom they were given?

The donor coordinator writes to the donor’s family with information regarding which organs and tissues were transplanted and how the recipients are progressing. Recipients may write letters of thanks to the donor’s family via the donor coordinator. However in accordance with the law, identifying information cannot be revealed to recipients or donor families.

What support services are available for donor families?

Different support services are available in different countries

In Australia you can find more information on http://www.donatelife.gov.au/

In the UK you can find more information on http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

In the US you can find more information on www.organdonor.gov

References:

Questions and Answers 2004. LifeLink Organ Donation Network NSW/ACT

Recommendations concerning Brain Death and Organ Donation 2nd Edition 1998.Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society.

Understanding Brian Death and Organ Donation: Living beyond Loss. Australian & New Zealand Organ and Tissue Donation Agencies.

Any questions?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for your loved one.

The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual Patient variation. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. INTENSIVE CARE HOTLINE attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual Patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.

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