August is organ donation month and we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of this decision.
What is organ donation?
Organ donation is the process when a person allows an organ of their own to be removed and transplanted to another person, legally, either by consent while the donor is alive or dead with the assent of the next of kin.
Why should you consider organ donation?
By donating your organsand tissue after you die, you can save or improve as many as 75 lives. Many families say that knowing their loved one helped save or improve other lives helped them cope with their loss. It’s especially important to consider becomingan organ donorif you belong to an ethnic minority.
As an organ donor, you can save the life of someone who is suffering from a life-threatening disease or someone who was in a serious accident.
Approximately 4300 people are waiting for a life-saving organ or cornea transplant in South Africa, but only 0,2% of our population are registered organ donors.
Organ and tissue donation is a simple choice that will cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time to register. Organ transplants are undertaken in both government and private hospitals in the Western Cape, and currently heart, kidney, cornea and liver transplants are carried out at the following government hospitals:
- Groote Schuur Hospital
- Red Cross Children’s Hospital
- Tygerberg Hospital
Here are some FAQ and answers from the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa.
Who can be an organ / tissue donor?
Any person, who is in good health, and is clear of defined chronic diseases that might adversely affect the recipient, will be considered as a possible donor.
Can I be a donor if I have an existing medical condition?
Having a medical condition does not necessarily prevent a person from becoming an organ donor. The decision about what organs will be transplanted will be established at your time of death.
Which organs can be transplanted?
Your heart, liver and pancreas can save 3 lives and your kidneys and lungs can help up to 4 people.
Which tissues can be transplanted?
You can help up to 50 people by donating your corneas, skin, bone and heart valves.
Can I agree to donate only some organs or tissue and not others?
Yes.Please inform your family which organs/tissue you do not wish to donate.
How long after death do the organs / tissue have to be removed?
It is essential that organs / tissue are removed as soon as possible after brain death in order to ensure successful transplantation. Brain death has to be certified by two independent doctors.
Is there any cost involved in signing up as an organ / tissue donor?
No,it costs nothing to sign up as an organ donor.
Does my family pay for the cost of donation?
No,The hospital or state will cover all
medical expenses from the moment of
diagnosis of brain death and when your family has given consent for the removal of organs/tissue.
Can I donate an organ / tissue while I am alive?
Yes,in some cases. Live donations, such as a kidney are often done between family
members, because the blood groups and
tissue types are more compatible to ensure a high success rate.
How do doctors know I am really dead?
Two doctors, who are completely independent of the transplant team, have to perform detailed Electronic Packs before a person can be declared brain dead. The criteria for brain death are very strictly adhered to and
accepted medically, legally and ethically in South Africa and internationally.
Can doctors keep me alive on support systems?
All potential organ donors are patients on support systems. They are submitted to Electronic Packs to certify brain death and become organ donors once brain death is certified and permission is obtained for organ donation. Death of the organ donor is defined by the time of certification of brain death, not by the withdrawal of support.
Does being a donor delay the funeral?
No.As soon as the donated organs / tissue has been removed, the body is returned to the family to bury or cremate.
Does organ / tissue donation leave my body disfigured?
No.The utmost respect and dignity is given to the donor at all times. The recovery of organs and tissue are carried out with great care by surgeons and trained staff and the process does not change the way the body looks.
Please consider organ donation. Your death can mean life to another person.
Registering as a donor
You can register as an organ donor by:
Once you’ve been successfully registered, the Organ Donor Foundation will send you an organ donor card to carry in your wallet as well as stickers to stick on your ID book and driver’s licence to make your intentions known in case of an emergency.