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Organ and tissue donation

Some people view the idea of donating their organs, tissue or body after their death as a way of getting something positive out of their illness. The thought of changing the lives of seriously ill people fills them with pride. Understandably, others find this too difficult to think about.

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If you’d like to donate any part of your body for transplant or research, there are a few things to consider.

Research or transplant?

Donating your body or organs to research means that they can be used to understand more about how our bodies work and what effects illness and treatment have on our bodies. Donating your organs for transplant means that they will directly benefit another person who has a significant illness or impairment.

If you’re considering donation for medical research, it’s helpful to know that your illness is unlikely to prevent you from doing this. But there is a small chance of being turned down, for example if a post mortem is required. See below for more details on how to donate your body to medical research.

Having a disease that might spread to different parts of the body, such as cancer, can prevent you donating your organs for transplant. For certain organs to be used, the person needs to die in a hospital or similar environment where the right assessment and monitoring can take place. However, there are also many tissues that can be donated if you choose to die elsewhere, as the same level of monitoring and assessment is not required. For example:

  • bone
  • skin
  • arteries
  • heart valves
  • in some cases, corneal (eye) tissue

If you have any concerns or questions, you may want to speak to your GP or someone else from your healthcare team.

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Registering to be a donor

You can carry a donor card with you at all times to show that you want to be an organ donor. In case you lose it, registering with your national register will ensure that your wishes are respected. You can take yourself off the register at any time.

If you live in England

Visit the NHS Blood and Transplant   website or call 0300 123 23 23 to find out more about organ or tissue donation, and to register as a donor.

If you live in Scotland

Visit the Organ Donation Scotland   website or call 0300 123 23 23 to find out more about organ or tissue donation, and to register as a donor.

If you live in Northern Ireland

Visit the Organ Donation Northern Ireland   website or call 0300 123 23 23 to find out more about organ or tissue donation, and to register as a donor.

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Organ donation in Wales

On 1 December 2015, Wales changed its system for organ and tissue donation. You can now choose to become a donor by opting in (registering) or by doing nothing. If you do nothing you'll be treated as having no objection to donating any of your organs. This is called 'deemed consent'.

If you don't want to be a donor you can opt-out by registering your decision. Healthcare professionals will also ensure that people’s wishes are respected by taking account of close relatives’ views on whether the person would have opted out of donating their organs.

The system applies to anyone over the age of 18 who has been a resident in Wales for the 12 months prior to their death. For more information and to register your organ donation decision visit organdonationwales.org

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Speaking to friends and family about organ donation

Although family and friends can't overrule your decision to become a donor, you might want to discuss organ or tissue donation with them. That way, they’ll know what to say to medical staff after death to make sure your wishes are followed.

If your intentions aren’t clear before and after your death, the person closest to you will be asked to make a decision.

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Consent for medical research

Registering for organ or tissue donation doesn’t mean you have given consent for donation to medical research. To do this, you must sign a consent form in front of a witness and tell your next of kin. You can get a form from your nearest medical school   and should keep a signed copy with your Will.

If you want your body or tissue to be used for a specific type of research, you’ll need to tell the health or social care professional dealing with your consent form. Your wishes will then be written on the form.

Before making any decision about donating your body, you may want to discuss your thoughts with a member of your healthcare team and family or friends. Your family won’t be able to give permission on your behalf after death. Only you can do this by contacting your local medical school.

The Human Tissue Authority can provide you with more information about donating your body to medical research. This includes a Body donation info pack   (PDF) and a Donating in Scotland   guide (PDF).

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Thinking about organ donation

External websites

NHS   – blood and transplant website 

Organ Donation Scotland  

Medical Schools Council   – find your nearest medical school 

Human Tissue Authority   – body donation pack (UK)


This page is for general information only. It's not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.

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