Organ Donor Foundation South Africa – FAQ

Organ Donor Foundation South Africa – FAQ

Who can be an organ/tissue donor?

Any person who is in good health and is clear of defined chronic diseases that might adversely affect the recipient would be considered as a possible donor.

Can I be a donor if I have an existing medical condition?

Having a medical condition does not necessarily prevent a person from becoming an organ donor. The decision about what organs will be transplanted will be established at your time of death.

Why do I need to discuss becoming an organ donor with my family?

After death, your organs cannot be removed for transplantation unless your family gives their permission. The removal of organs/tissue without consent is protected by the Human Tissue Act, No 65 of 1983 (as amended).

Which organs can be transplanted?

Heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas.

Which tissues can be transplanted?

Corneas, heart valves, skin and bone.

Can I agree to donate only some organs or tissue and not others?

Yes. Please inform your family which organs/tissue you do not wish to donate.

How long after death do the organs/tissue have to be removed?

It is essential that organs/tissue are removed as soon as possible after brain death in order to ensure successful transplantation. Brain death has to be certified by two independent doctors.

Is there any cost involved in becoming an organ/tissue donor?

No, it costs nothing for you or your family.

Does my family pay for the cost of donation?

No, the hospital or state will cover all medical expenses from the moment of diagnosis of brain death and when your family has given consent for the removal of organs/tissue.

Would my family receive compensation for donating my organs?

No. Organ/tissue donation is a gift.

Can people buy or sell organs or tissue?

No. Organ/tissue donation is a gift of life from one family to another. Trading in organs and tissue is illegal.

Can I donate an organ/tissue while I am alive?

Yes, in some cases. Live donations, such as a kidney and part of a liver are often done between family members, because the blood groups and tissue types are more compatible to ensure a high success rate. You can also donate bone marrow while you are alive.

How do doctors know I am really dead?

Two doctors, who are completely independent of the transplant team, have to perform detailed tests before a person can be declared brain dead. The criteria for brain death are very strictly adhered to and accepted medically, legally and ethically in South Africa and internationally.

Can doctors keep me alive on support systems?

All potential donors are patients on support systems. They are submitted to tests to certify brain death and become organ donors once brain death is certified and permission is obtained for organ donation. Support systems are maintained until the organs have been removed. Death of the organ donor is defined by the time of certification of brain death, not by the withdrawal of support.

Does being a donor delay the funeral?

No. As soon as the donated organs/tissue have been removed, the body is returned to the family to bury or cremate.

Does organ/tissue donation leave my body disfigured?

No. The utmost respect and dignity is given to the donor at all times. The recovery of organs and tissue are carried out with great care by surgeons and trained staff and the process does not change the way the body looks.

Are there religious objections to transplantation?

Most religions support organ and tissue donation, as it is consistent with life preservation. If you are unsure, you should talk to your spiritual leader.

Would the transplant recipient ever know who the donor was?

No. Confidentiality is always maintained except in the case of living donors, where transplants are done within the same family. Recipients may write letters of gratitude, which will be passed on and are really appreciated by the donor family.

Can I change my mind?

Yes. You can change your mind at any time. Simply tear up your organ donor card and remove your sticker from your ID document and driver’s licence. Please inform your family that you no longer wish to be an organ donor.

How do I become an organ/tissue donor?

  • Phone the Organ Donor Foundation toll free on 0800 22 66 11.
  • Or register online at www.odf.org.za.
  • Always carry an Organ Donor card in your wallet and place an Organ Donor sticker on your ID document and on your driver’s licence.
  • It is most important to discuss the decision with your family. Let them know you want to donate your organs after your death. Ask them to honour your wish when you die.
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