Consenting to organ donation

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, organs and tissue from a potential donor can be used only if that is their wish. Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register is a way of giving legal consent or authorisation for donation to take place. This is a more permanent way of expressing one’s wishes than a donor card as cards can get lost or damaged. People should also discuss their wishes with their family. If their wishes are not clear, the person closest to them in life will be asked what they think they would have wanted. This is why it is important that people are aware of their loved one’s views on organ donation. In Wales (currently also being debated in the Scottish Parliament) there is an ‘opt-out’ system where unless a person opts-out of organ donation, it is assumed that he or she has no objection to becoming an organ donor (1st December 2015).

The doctors looking after a patient have to make every possible effort to save the patient’s life. That is their first duty. If, despite all their efforts, the patient dies, death is diagnosed by brain stem tests (see ‘At the hospital‘). It is around this time that the question of organ donation is raised and the family is given time to come to their decision within medical constraints.
When organ and tissue donation is being considered, a completely different team of donation and transplant specialists are called in. Donor families discussed their views and concerns about organ donation with the specialist nurse (donor coordinator), who was able to explain the process and answer any questions (see ‘The organ donation specialist nurse‘).

An organ donation nurse explains the role of specialist nurses in the organ donation process.

Gender Female

View profile

At the hospital

Donor families talked about what happened when they arrived at the hospital or in intensive care after their loved one had suddenly become ill or...