Organ and tissue donation

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 might 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 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.

It is important to discuss donation with the people closest to you. This means that when the time comes, they will find it easier to carry out your wishes.

Donating your body for medical research and education

Some people want to donate their body for medical research and education. If you are thinking about donating your body, it is important to talk about it with your GP, hospital or community care team. You can also talk about it with your family or close friends.

As part of the donation process, you will be asked to sign a consent form. A copy should be kept with your will.

If you want your body tissue to be used for a specific type of research, you need to tell the health and social care professional who is dealing with the consent form. Your wishes 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 for medical reasons.

In Northern Ireland, Queen's University Medical School is the only medical school that accepts body donations.