Organ donation after a traumatic death

Sometimes body tissues from the victim of an accident can be used to help other people. If the deceased person has signed a donor card, is on the NHS donor register, or has otherwise left clear wishes, organ donation can go ahead. Relatives have no legal right to veto or overrule those wishes.
If a person is not carrying a card or is not on the register the next of kin or a friend of longstanding (the person who has been closest to the deceased in life) may still give their consent to donation.
Whether or not organs can be transplanted and which ones can be transplanted depends on several factors. If a person dies in hospital, and has been on a life support machine, the internal organs and other body tissue can usually be used for transplants.
Godfrey’s son Adrian died in intensive care after an accident at a railway station. Godfrey and his wife were glad that he was carrying a donor card, and approved of his wish to help others after his death.

Many of Adrians organs were used for transplantation. Godfrey was glad that his son had been…

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

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If the deceased person has been overseas recently or has been taking medicines, such as antibiotics, organ donation may not be possible.
Pat described her son Matthew as a caring person who would have wanted to help someone else. However, he had been abroad the month before his death and had been taking anti-malarial medicine, so was allowed to donate only his corneas. Pat learnt later that only one was used but does not know why, though she did ask.
If someone dies through trauma outside of hospital and has not been on a life support machine internal organs cannot be used for organ donation. However, corneas, heart valves, and skin or bone may still be donated.
Elizabeth’s daughter Marni died in a road crash. She had been carrying a donor card so someone phoned Elizabeth to ask permission to transplant some of Marni’s body tissue. Elizabeth would not have minded if her daughter’s internal organs had been used to save someone’s life, but she disliked the idea of other parts being used.

Elizabeth was surprised when the hospital wanted bone tissue for transplantation. She was glad…

Age at interview 52

Gender Female

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Some people told us that organ donation had not been mentioned when their relative had died. Dean, whose son died after being hit by a car, said that he would have given permission if asked, knowing that his son would have wanted it.
Josefine, whose husband died in a car crash, was not in favour of organ donation.

Josefine was not in favour of organ donation. She does not think bodies should be used for spare…

Age at interview 57

Gender Female

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See more experiences of organ donation and transplant.

Viewing the body

Many people hear about their relative's death from police at their door or when friends or relatives phone with the terrible news. Most people we...