Organ donation: essential information

Despite recent developments in the world of medical science including life-saving drugs and innovative life-sustaining surgical procedures, the fact remains that organ transplants are still considered the most effective solution for patients with organ failure.

However, a serious shortage of organ donors exists and the gap between the number of organs donated and the number of people waiting for a transplant is increasing.

Essential Information: What is organ donation?

Organ donation involves the removal of vital organs from the body of a person who has just died or from a living donor. The deceased, however, make up the vast majority of organ donors.

Types of organs which are in constant demand include kidneys, hearts, livers and lungs, with transplant operations of these organs now commonplace. Increasing success is also being witnessed in transplants which use the pancreas, small bowel, heart valves and body tissue, e.g. skin, bone and corneas.

Speed is of the essence, where successful organ transplants are concerned. Clearly, those people who already carry organ donor cards or have made their wishes known, beforehand, have taken the single most important step towards saving the life or lives of patients desperately waiting for a transplant.

Global shortfall in organ availability

The shortage of suitable donor organs is a major problem, not only within the UK, but is also an issue worldwide, with demand far outstripping supply, in most countries.

The situation is further exacerbated by the various legislative systems relating to organ transplantation that apply in different countries. Some countries, for example, operate an ‘opt-in’ system which means that everyone who has not volunteered or given consent is not a donor, e.g. Germany, Greece. Conversely, ‘opt-out’, refers to all those citizens who have not refused and are, therefore, automatically considered as donors, e.g. Spain, Austria.

Fascinating Facts

Did you know that …

  • According to the NHS Organ Donor Register, in excess of 10,000 UK patients currently need a transplant?
  • Around 2,700 people in the UK, annually, are able to resume a reasonably normal lifestyle, thanks to receiving an organ transplant?
  • Kidney transplants make up the largest number of organ transplants?
  • The organs from one donor can save or improve the quality of life for as many as fifty people?
  • Approximately three people per day, in the UK, die while waiting for an organ transplant due to lack of organ availability; many people die before they even get on to the transplant list?
  • As few as 28% of eligible organ donors have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register? 

NHS organ donor register

Signing up for organ donation is easy.

Organ donor registration details Telephone: NHS Donor Line: tel. 0300 123 23 23 (open 24/7) Text: Text ‘SAVE’ to 84118

Online: Register at:

Alternatively, become an organ donor when you register at your GP’s surgery, apply for an EHIC (European health Insurance Card), register for a driving licence, or even when you take out a Boots Advantage card.

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