What is organ donation?
Organ donation is the gift of an organ to help someone who needs a transplant. The generosity of donors and their families enables over 3,000 people in the UK every year to take on a new lease of life.
Which organs can be transplanted?
Kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and the small bowel can all be transplanted.
Would a donor's family ever know who the recipient was?
Confidentiality is always maintained, except in the case of living donors who usually already know each other.
If the family wish, they will be given some brief details such as the age and sex of the person or persons who have benefited from the donation. Patients who receive organs can obtain similar details about their donors. It is not always possible to provide recipient information to donor families for some types of tissue transplant.
Those involved may want to exchange anonymous letters of thanks or good wishes through the transplant co-ordinators and in some instances donor families and recipients have arranged to meet.
Does the colour of my skin make a difference?
No. However, organs are matched by blood group and tissue type (for kidney transplants) and the best-matched transplants have the best outcome. Patients from the same ethnic group are more likely to be a close match. A few people with rare tissue types may only be able to receive a well-matched organ from someone of the same ethnic origin, so it is important that people from all ethnic backgrounds donate organs.
Successful transplants are carried out between people from different ethnic groups wherever the matching criteria are met.
Can I be a donor if I have an existing medical condition?
Yes, in most circumstances. Having a medical condition does not necessarily prevent a person from becoming an organ or tissue donor. The decision about whether some or all organs or tissue are suitable for transplant is made by a healthcare professional, taking into account your medical history.
There are only two conditions where organ donation is ruled out completely. A person cannot become an organ or tissue donor if they have been diagnosed with HIV or have, or are suspected of having, CJD.
How are Organs Allocated?
The number of people needing organ transplants in the United Kingdom is greater than the number of donor organs available.
This means there has to be a system to ensure that patients are treated equally and that donated organs are allocated in a fair and unbiased way based on the patient's need and the importance of achieving the closest possible match between donor and recipient.
All patients who are waiting for transplants are registered on the National Transplant Database.
Rules for allocating organs are determined by the medical profession in consultation with other health professionals, the Department of Health and specialist advisory groups.
The blood group, age and size of both the donor and recipient are all taken into account to ensure the best possible match for each patient.
For kidney transplant patients, tissue type match is also a consideration. A review of the effects of tissue matching show that a good tissue type match with the donor is important for some patients, but less so for others.
A computer program is used to identify the best matched patient, or alternatively, the transplant unit to which the organ is to be offered.
Organ Donation and Transplantation Directorate within NHSBT monitors the allocation procedure and any cases where the rules have not been followed are reported to the director of the transplant unit concerned, the chairman of the appropriate advisory group and the director of Organ Donation and Transplantation.
Transplants save lives
In the UK between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012:
All statistics we produce and publish undergo a rigorous validation process to ensure, as far as possible, that information is factually accurate. Last updated July 2012