Deciding in favour of organ and tissue donation

Organ and tissue donation and transplantation offer patients in need a wonderful opportunity of healing and life. By becoming an organ and tissue donor, you can ensure that you leave a wonderful final legacy of love and hope in helping another.

What is the difference between organ and tissue donation?

The concept is the same: A person decides that after his/her own death, another individual should benefit from healthy organs and tissue through transplantation – rather than these being committed to the grave.

Organs are retrieved when a patient is brain stem dead, still in hospital and medically supported. About 1% of people die in circumstances in hospital that allow for successful organ donation. These circumstances seldom occur, however.

To put this into context, statistics show that the greater population will either pass away at home, at work or on the road, under circumstances that prevent successful organ retrieval. In such cases the donor can donate tissue, which is equally as valuable and life-altering to a patient in need of a transplant. This means that a far greater number of people have the opportunity to donate tissue.

Tissue donation

Human tissue donation and transplantation offer patients in need a wonderful opportunity for healing and in some cases may be life-saving.

Each year the lives of thousands of South Africans are transformed through the transplantation of donated tissue.

‘Tissue’ is described as Cornea, Skin, Bone and Tendons, and Heart Valves and donation is facilitated by a Tissue Bank. Different from organ donation, these tissues are retrieved from the donor after cardiac death. Depending on the type of tissue, retrieval of tissue can take place any time between 12 hours and 5 days after death. In the case of unnatural death, the retrieval of tissue often takes place after the Post Mortem examination.

Through the ‘miracle’ of tissue donation, tissue ‘grafts’ or transplants have made it possible for one donor to transform the lives of many people, and often multiple recipients will benefit from one multi-tissue donor.

  • Tissue donation makes skin grafts possible for thousands of critically burned patients every year.
  • Donated corneas avert or correct blindness.
  • Donor heart valves help repair cardiac defects or damage.
  • Bone, cartilage and tendon grafts help restore function and mobility in people who would otherwise be incapacitated or disabled, and are used to treat a wide range of medical conditions such as maxillofacial and orthopaedic injury, spinal surgery, and treatment of trauma.