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National Transplant Week, 8-14 July 2013

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 09/07/2013

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant. For every 1,000 people each year - 3 people a day - die because there are not enough organs available. Only 31% of us have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register.

The theme of this year's National Transplant Week, organised by NHS Blood and Transplant, is Pass It On''. The aim of the week is to encourage everyone to have a conversation with their family about what they would like to happen to their organs after their death.

In the event that something happens to you, your family will be asked for their permission for organ donation to go ahead. Therefore it's best to let them know your wishes while you can, so they know what decision to make.

Ninety-five per cent of families agree to organ donation if their loved one has told them about their wishes and that they've registered on the Organ Donor Register. However, only 46% of families agree to organ donation if they didn't know the wishes of the deceased.

What is organ donation?

Organ donation is the transplanting of your organs to a person who needs them. You can donate your kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and small bowel. You can also donate your corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves.

You can even donate whilst still alive - such as your kidney, part of your liver and a segment of your lung.

Why are organs needed?

The demand for transplants is expected to rise steeply because of an ageing population and an increase in kidney failure.

The number of people waiting for a transplant is increasing, the gap between how many organs are donated is growing. One of the reasons for this is that only a small minority of people die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs. Also, organs can only be donated by those that die in hospital as the organs have to be transplanted very soon after death.

Who can register for organ donation?

Anyone can join the register. Blood is taken from all potential donors and a healthcare professional will make decide whether some or all organs or tissue are suitable for transplant, taking your medical history in consideration. There are only two conditions where organ donation is ruled out completed - if you have HIV or CJD.

By registering you are giving your legal consent for your organs to be donated. Children can register but only with the consent of those who have parental responsibility for them.

How can I register for organ donation?

If you wish to donate organs after your death you need to register on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This is a confidential, computerised database that is used by healthcare professionals.

It is important that you tell your family that you have joined the Register and wish to donate your organs.

To read more about how you can register, see: http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

Is an organ transplant safe?

Transplant medicine is both challenging and complex. An organ transplant can save a person's life, or significantly improve their health and quality of life, but it is a massive undertaking. One of the biggest challenges with organ transplants is preventing the patient’s natural defence mechanism, the immune system, from rejecting the transplanted organ, or rejecting the grafted tissue. Temporary and long-term suppression of the recipient's immune processes can result in infections and cancers.

It is therefore vital that the donor organs are healthy and compatible. Unfortunately, mistakes are made, for example, a damaged organ may be transplanted by mistake resulting in necrosis and necessitating removal. The donor of the organ may have had a fatal cancer causing the recipient to develop cancer and resulting in the untimely death of the recipient, or it may be the case that an organ from someone considerably older may have been implanted into a young recipient which may mean that the organ would fail much quicker.

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