Currently, thousands of people in South Africa are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and with not even 1% of the population registered as organ donors, the situation is dire. The sad reality is that not all people on the waiting list will receive an organ in time. This may seem at odds with the number of deaths reported daily in South Africa, but many potential donors go unrecognised by medical staff or; donor families may deny consent if not aware of their loved one’s wishes or if they have been misinformed about organ donation. A donor’s family ultimately has the final say regarding organ donation, so it’s imperative that the public make their next-of-kin aware of their wishes to be an organ donor.
Who can be an organ/tissue donor?
Any person can be a possible organ and tissue donor. There is no age limit on becoming a donor and there are no tests required when signing up to be a donor, all tests are done at the time of your death, once your family has given consent for your organs to be donated.
Does my family need to be aware of my wishes?
Your family still needs to give consent before your organs are donated, even if you have registered! So be sure to let your family know of your intentions. Should you only want certain organs and tissues to be donated please also relay this information to your family.
Which organs can be transplanted?
The seven life-saving organs are: 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, heart, liver and pancreas.
Which tissues can be donated?
In addition to saving 7 lives, you can help between 50 and100 people through the donation of your tissues. For instance, your skin can be used to help burn victims and your corneas can be used for cornea transplants to restore a person’s sight. You can also donate bone, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and veins.
What is the process followed in the hospitals, if I should be identified as a potential donor?
Two independent doctors, not part of the transplant team, perform detailed tests and have to sign off that you are brain stem dead before you can be considered as a potential organ donor. The Department of Health guideline defines brain stem death as: “the irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe”. It is equivalent to the death of an individual. A person who is brain dead has no chance of recovery, because their body is unable to survive without artificial support.
Once consent has been given by the family for organ/tissue donation, arrangements for the procuring of the viable organs and tissues are done by a trained and specialised team. This is all performed whilst maintaining the utmost respect for the donor. Organs are carefully removed and funeral arrangements can proceed as preferred by the family.
Is there financial compensation for organ/tissue donation?
Being an organ/tissue donor is a selfless act which saves and improves the lives of countless grateful recipients. No financial compensation is received, and trading or selling organs and tissue is illegal. There is also no cost involved in becoming a donor, and also no further medical expenses are incurred by the family once brain stem death is diagnosed and the family has given consent for donation.
Is it possible to be a live donor?
In South Africa it is possible (in specific cases) to donate a kidney, or a part of your liver, to a person in need should you be a blood group and tissue type match.