Organ donation is the donation of an organ from a deceased person to allow a life saving or life changing transplant to be performed. Donations come from people who have died while on ventilatory support in the Critical Care Unit or the Emergency Department.
If the senior doctors caring for patients in these care areas strongly believe that there is no chance of recovery and that treatment is no longer in a patient’s best interest, they will talk to the family about this and ask them about their relatives’ end of life wishes. This may include asking about organ and tissue donation.
The treatment of a patient may be limited only for medical reasons and the potential donation of organs or tissues is never associated with treatment decisions.
The donation of organs can only take place after death. This delicate and precise surgery is performed by specialist surgeons in the operating theatre. The operation is carried out under the same conditions as it would be if the patient was still alive.
Organ Donation does not delay funeral arrangements. Other than a surgical dressing the appearance of the body is not altered by donation.
There are currently more than 20 million people on the UK Organ Donor Register. In Norfolk 32% of the population have registered a wish to donate in the event of their death.
Patient choice is central to the values of the NNUHT and every effort is made to ensure that the opportunity to donate organs and tissues is discussed when the circumstances arise.
The wishes of each patient are paramount and if someone has expressed a wish to donate either by joining the Organ Donor Register or by carrying a Donor Card their family and friends are supported through the process of honouring this wish.
If a patient has not specified their views regarding organ or tissue donation during their life-time, specialist nurses are available to work with families and friends and to support them in making a choice on behalf of their loved one.
When giving consent a family member or friend can specify which organs or tissues they are comfortable to donate and can be confident that their wishes will be adhered to.
One organ donor can save or transform up to nine lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.
In 2012 more than 1200 individuals donated organs for transplant in the UK. Sadly in that same year more than 1000 others died on the transplant waiting list because the organ they needed did not become available.
There are more than 10,000 people currently awaiting an organ transplant in the UK.
Statistically we are all more likely to need an organ transplant that we are to become a donor.
Patients of all ages can become organ donors with the oldest recorded donor in the UK being 84.
The number of people needing a transplant is expected to rise steeply over the next decade due to an ageing population, an increase in kidney and liver failure and scientific advances resulting in more people being suitable for a transplant.
The family of any patients who pass away in the hospital may be offered information about tissue donation.
To join the Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or telephone 0300 123 23 23.
For medical and nursing staff there is a 24 hour pager for potential donor advice or to refer a potential donor: 07659 117499
Some people are willing to help others to see through the gift of corneal donation. The East Anglian Eye Bank guides families through this process. Specially trained nurses will check that the donor is medically suitable. They will approach the family (usually by phone) to see if donation is something they would like to consider.
For relatives the most important point to consider is that the donors appearance will be unaltered by donation
A Eye Bank Coordinator is available via the NNUH switchboard on 01603 286286.