Dying matters: time to think about organ donation?

Posted by Alix Langrognat on
When someone dies, it can be overwhelming for family members and friends and often the most immediate concern is registering the death and arranging the funeral. Organ donation may not enter anyone's mind and of course it may be too late. Should you wish to be an organ donor, it's worth thinking about now. 

It is fairly common for people to include funeral wishes in their Will, and usually they express a wish to be buried or cremated. However, increasing numbers of people are prepared to donate their organs or body for transplants and medical research purposes.

As part of Dying Matters awareness week, we are encouraging people to have open conversations about death with friends and family, and think ahead about what they would like to happen when they die.

Many may choose not to do so because of personal preference or religious beliefs but for some of you, organ donation may have crossed your mind. So, exactly what can you donate and how?

What can I donate?

  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel
  • Corneas
  • Tissue

You can choose which organs you wish to donate and the NHS can only use your organs and tissue with your consent.

You can give consent by joining the NHS Organ Donation Register or telling family members or close friends. Practically speaking, it is best to let your family be aware of your wishes.

Please note that you are unable to donate if you have had CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jackob disease). However, a donor with current or past cancers can still be a donor as medical professionals will select what organs can be safely used.

The statistics that might persuade you to become a donor

There were more organ transplants across the UK than ever before in 2015/16, according to NHS Organ Donation.

A total of 1,364 people became organ donors when they died, and this resulted in 3,519 transplants. Despite these figures, the UK has one of the lowest donation rates in Europe. In particular, Black and Asian backgrounds are less likely to decide to donate, but are in high demand and make up 26% of the people on the waiting list who need donors from their own communities. The most common reason for organs not being donated is refusal from family members.

How can I donate?

  • Register with NHS Organ Donation
  • Boots membership includes an opt in donor
  • Tell family members or close friends
  • Include your wish in your Will, or a letter of wishes.

You can also have a non-binding letter of wishes document accompanying your Will. This is a good way for you to express to your family, friends, and executors what you would like to happen after your death. You don't need a solicitor to prepare this for you, but Blake Morgan suggest you consider this when you are making or updating your Will.

Please contact the Succession and Tax team if you would like further information on organ donation and your Will.

About the Author

Photograph of Alix Langrognat

Alix is a Solicitor in our Succession and Tax team based in London. She specialises in wills, the administration of trusts and estates, lifetime and succession planning.

Alix Langrognat
Email Alix
020 7014 5293

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