What is organ and tissue donation?

Organ and tissue donation is when a person has made their wishes known, or their family, agrees to the removal of one or more of their organs or tissues, so that the organs or tissues can be transplanted into someone else to either save or improve their quality of life.

Most organs are donated by people who die while on a ventilator in an Intensive Care Unit, generally as a result of a major accident, a brain haemorrhage or stroke. Today very few people die in these circumstances and the number is falling because of welcomed improvements in road safety and advances in medical treatment.

A person can donate a number of different organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas. They can also donate certain body tissues, such as corneas, skin, heart valves and bone.

Tissue donation may occur when someone has died without being in hospital as tissues can be donated up to 24 hours after death. Many more people are suitable for tissue donation than organ donation.

While most donations occur after a person has died, it is also possible to donate some organs while you are still alive. For example, a relative or friend can donate one of their kidneys to another relative or friend. This is called living-related donation.