Because transplantation is now so successful, an increasing number of patients are able to benefit from the procedure. Because of the limited opportunities for organ donation there
is a need to ensure that every opportunity is taken so ensuring your family know your wishes is important.
YES. Organs are retrieved from a donor who has been declared brain-stem dead but is maintained on a ventilator. Tissue however, can be retrieved later and, in some cases, up to 24 hours following death.
It is a machine also known as a respirator or life-support machine. It is used to take over the breathing of a person who has lost the ability to breathe for themselves.
Two independent doctors have to carry out a series of tests in order to confirm that a patient is brain stem dead. The standards are very strict and are internationally accepted medically, legally and ethically. Cardiac death donors, or non-heart beating donors as they are sometimes known, who do not fully fit the brain death donor criteria, but die following the removal of life support, are now considered for organ donation in some Irish hospitals.
There are two criteria to meet; firstly, to be a potential organ donor you need to die in particular circumstances, as described elsewhere in this fact-file, and secondly, your family is approached about consent for organ donation. So, ensuring your family know your wishes is essential. The traditional organ donor card, the digital organ donor card app, a question on the driving licence application and ‘Think Ahead’ form are all there as an ‘icebreaker’ to prompt a family discussion. They do not have any legal standing. The research shows families are more likely to consent if they know their loved one’s wished to donate.
In the case of corneas and blood donation, age does not matter. For organs, it is the person's physical condition, not age, which is the determining factor. Doctors decide in each case whether organs are suitable for retrieval and transplantation.
Organ donation is carried out in the hospital in which the patient dies. Following the death of the donor the organs are removed in an operating theatre, with precisely the same care as in any other type of surgical procedure. The donor’s external appearance is fully restored afterwards.
Having a medical condition does not necessarily prevent a person from becoming an organ or tissue donor. It may be that you cannot donate all of your organs but you can donate one or more. When a person is identified as a potential donor, taking account of past medical history, the decision about whether organs or tissues are suitable for transplantation is made by a doctor.
YES. Blood is taken from all potential donors and tested to rule out transmittable diseases and viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis. The family of the potential donor will be made aware that these tests are required.
No. The recovery of organs and tissue is carried out with great care and respect by surgeons and trained staff and does not disfigure the body or interfere with funeral plans.
NO. By the time your will is read it will be too late for you to become an organ or tissue donor. You may wish to consider including your wishes in your ‘Think Ahead’ form. The ‘Think Ahead’ form is a statement you can make on the type of medical or surgical treatment you want or do not want.
NO. Confidentiality is always maintained, except in the case of living donations, which are usually within the same family.
Most major religious groups approve and support organ donation as it is consistent with caring traditions. However, if you have any doubts, you should discuss them with your own spiritual or religious leader.
Many things need to match or be very close to ensure a successful transplant operation. Blood group, age and weight are all taken into account. For kidneys, another factor is tissue typing which is much more complex than blood grouping. The more accurate the match, the better the chance of success. There are national computerised lists of patients waiting for organ transplants. The computer programme will identify the best matched patient for an organ.
Inform your family and tear up the card.