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 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.

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.

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 donation by visiting the Organ Donation Scotland 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.

Donating your body for medical research and teaching

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 Scotland

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

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (PoA) allows you to choose someone to make decisions on your behalf.

Advance Directives

An Advance Directive is a written statement of your wishes to refuse certain treatments in the future.

Funeral planning

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

Mental capacity

The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 aims to protect people who cannot make a decision for themselves.