Organ and tissue donation

Many people think that if they have a medical condition, such as cancer, they will not be able to donate their organs or tissue to another person when they die. You can still donate organs or tissue but a cancer diagnosis may affect what you can donate.

If you want to donate your organs or tissue, it will be up to a healthcare professional. They will review your medical history after you have died and then decide whether any of your organs or tissues are suitable for donation.

People who have died with cancer can usually donate the corneas (clear tissue at the front of each eye). Your corneas could help to restore a person’s sight.

Some people may want to donate their body for medical research. If you are thinking about doing this, it is important to discuss it with your healthcare team, as well as family or close friends.

You can find out more about organ and tissue donation by visiting the NHS Blood and Transplant website. If you live in Wales, visit organdonationwales.org

Thinking about organ and tissue donation

Many people think that if they have a medical condition such as cancer, they will not be able to donate their organs (such as a kidney) or tissue (such as the corneas of the eye) to another person when they die. Having, or having had, cancer does not mean you cannot donate your organs or tissue. But it may affect what you can donate.

If you have a medical condition such as cancer, a healthcare professional will review your medical history after you have died. They will then decide whether one or more of your organs or tissues are suitable for donation. This means that while you are alive, you will not know whether your organs or tissues will be suitable. Only your family will know this after you have died.

Corneal transplants

The cornea is one type of tissue that is usually suitable for donation if a person dies with cancer.

The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of each eye. It lets light into the eye and focuses it on the retina so we can see. If the cornea becomes damaged, it can mean you may no longer be able to see.

Corneal transplants can replace the damaged tissue with a disc of healthy tissue from a donor’s eye (or eyes). This can allow the person to see again.

Finding out more about organ and tissue donation

You can find out more about organ and tissue donation by visiting the NHS Blood and Transplant website. They keep a register of people who wish to donate their organs or tissue after their death. You can join the register online, by phone or by text.

Since 1 December 2015, the way people in Wales choose to donate their organs has changed. People living in Wales are expected to opt out if they do not want to be an organ donor.

If you live in Wales and want to be a donor, you can:

  • choose to be a donor by registering your decision (opting in)
  • do nothing, which means you have no objection to being a donor (deemed consent).

If you do not want to be a donor, then you must register a wish not to be a donor (opting out).

You can find more information at organdonationwales.org


Donating your body for medical research

Some people want to donate their body for medical research. If you are thinking about donating your body, it is important to talk about it with your GP, hospital or palliative care team. You can also talk about it with your family or close friends. As part of the donation process, you and your next of kin will be asked to sign a consent form. You can get this form from your local medical school. A copy should be kept with your will.

If you want your tissue to be used for a specific type of research, you will need to tell the healthcare professional who is dealing with the consent form. Your wishes will need to be written on the consent form.

Not everyone who wishes to donate their body will be able to do so. This may be due to medical reasons. The Human Tissue Authority can give you more information about donating your body for medical research.

Back to Advance care planning in England and Wales

Planning ahead

Planning ahead can help people know what care you would like if you become unable to make choices yourself.

Making a will

Having an up-to-date will ensures that your wishes for who you would like to leave your estate to are guaranteed.

Your wishes for your care

When planning ahead, it is important to think about how and where you would like to be cared for.

Funeral planning

Planning your funeral in advance means your family and friends can arrange the type of funeral you would like.