Organ donation is where a person donates their organs for transplantation.  There are TWO types of organ donation; living and deceased.

Donated organ are given to someone who has damaged organs that need to be replaced.  An organ transplant may save a person’s life or significantly improve their health and quality of life.

There’s a particular need for more people of African, Caribbean and south Asian ethniticies to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and agree to donate their organs in the event of their death. This is because donation rates among these ethnic groups are low but the need is great.

People from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities are more likely to develop health conditions that can lead to kidney failure, and on average they’ll wait a year longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient.

There’s no upper age limit for joining the register and recording your wish to be a donor.

If you die in circumstances where you could potentially donate, specialist healthcare professionals decide which organs and tissues are suitable based on a number of factors, including your medical and travel history.

Tissue from people in their 70s and 80s is often transplanted successfully, although organs are only selected from those under 80 years of age.

Most people waiting for a donated organ need to have a kidney, heart, lung or liver transplant. One donor can help several people as they can donate a number of organs, including:

small bowel

Tissues that can be donated include:

the cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye)
heart valves

All donors can choose which organs and tissues they wish to donate. Read more about what organs can be donated.


The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential national database that holds the details of around 21 million people who want to donate their organs when they die.

Adding your name to the register and telling your family and friends that you want to be a donor will make it easier for them to agree to donation in the event of your death.

To join the register please call the free NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23, quoting the ACLT code of ODT 2209 (It is important to quote this code to enable ACLT to track the number of new registrants which have come via our work and campaigns). Lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Read about how organ donation works for further details about joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and the donation process.

Even though about a third of the population have joined the register, less than 5,000 people a year die in circumstances that allow them to donate their organs.

This means it’s even more important for as many people as possible to talk about donation and join the register so no donation is wasted.

Remember to discuss your decision with your family so they’re aware.


When an organ becomes available for donation, it’s checked to make sure it’s healthy.

The blood and tissue type of both donor and recipient are also checked to ensure they’re compatible. The better the match, the greater the chance of a successful outcome.

People from the same ethnic group are more likely to be a close match. Those with rare tissue types may only be able to accept an organ from someone of the same ethnic origin. This is why it’s important that people from all ethnic backgrounds register to donate their organs.


Living organ donation usually involves one family member donating an organ to another family member or partner. The relative is usually related by blood – a parent, brother, sister, or child.

It’s also now possible to be an altruistic donor. Altruistic donors are unrelated to the patient but become donors as an act of personal generosity.

Kidneys are often donated from living donors as a healthy person can lead a normal life with only one kidney.

Read more about living donation HERE.

(Words courtesty of