Organ donation is a process whereby a person authorizes the removal of his or her organ(s) with the legal consent of the donor when the donor is alive, or with the consent of next of kin or a close relative when the donor is deceased.
In most cases, an organ donation can be made for research purposes, or for transplantation into another person’s body.
The most common transplants involve organs such as the pancreas, intestines, kidneys, liver, bone marrow, skin, cornea, and heart.
Living donors can donate a kidney, part of the pancreas, lungs, parts of the intestine, and the liver. However, most organ donations take place after the death of the donor.
For living donors, extensive testing is performed prior to organ donation. These tests include a psychological evaluation to determine if the potential donor fully understands what organ donation is, and is ready to consent to the actual donation.
Ronald Lee Herrick was the world’s first ever organ donor to participate in a successful transplant. In 1954, he donated one of his kidneys to his twin brother. This operation earned Joseph Murray, the surgeon responsible for the successful transplantation of the organ, the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
The laws of different countries allow potential donors to authorize or refuse organ donation, or to leave this choice to their relatives. The frequency of organ donation varies from country to country.
In the European Union, organ donation is regulated by the Member States.
Since 2010, 24 European countries have adopted a system of “presumed consent” (opt-out). The most widespread and restricted presumed consent systems are found in countries such as Spain, Austria, and Belgium, which have high rates of organ donation. In 2017, Spain had the highest organ donor rate in the world, with just over 45.9 donors per million inhabitants.
In England, organ donation is voluntary and no consent is required.
People who wish to donate their organs after death can use theOrgan Donation Register, a national database.
In July 2013, Wales became the first constituent country of the United Kingdom to adopt the principle of presumed consent. Since December1, 2015, this country has operated on the principle of presumed consent of citizens to organ donation. This system is expected to increase the number of donors by 25% in 2016.
In 2008, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of an initiative to introduce a European organ donor card to promote organ donation in Europe. This project has been adopted and the card is currently in use.
Who can be an organ donor?
Anyone, regardless of age, can be a potential donor. When a person dies, the Organ Procurement Agency assesses medical suitability for donation based on the person’s medical history and age.
Can I be a donor with a medical condition?
Having a medical condition or problem does not necessarily preclude you from becoming an organ or tissue donor.
It is up to the physician to decide whether some or all of the organs or tissues are suitable for transplantation at the time of donation, based on your medical, social, and travel history.
On the other hand, organ donation is totally excluded in certain cases, notably if a person has or is suspected of having one of the following diseases: active cancer, Ebola virus disease, human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis C, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
However, people with certain types of cancer can still donate their organs after a few years of treatment. In these circumstances, it may also be possible to donate certain organs, such as eyes and tissue.
Organs from donors with human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis C can also be used to help others with the same conditions, but this is rare.
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