Are you unsure about what organ donation could mean for you or your loved ones after you die?
This guide explains what how choosing to donate part of your body to someone in need of a transplant could affect your funeral and last wishes.
When a person dies who was on the organ donor register, a specialist nurse will consult with the family of the deceased.
The first stage of this consists of checking whether, to the family’s knowledge, the deceased still consented to donating their organs at the time of their death.
If so, the nurse may then work with the bereaved family to answer any questions they may have and to discuss any religious or cultural considerations which need to be taken into account.
The family may also be asked to provide information on the lifestyle and travel history of the donor, to help establish whether their organs and tissue are safe for someone to receive.
With the family’s consent, a surgical procedure can take place to remove the donor’s organs. This is carried out by a specialist surgeon in an operating theatre.
Incisions made enduring procedure are dressed afterwards, as with a normal surgical procedure, and the body is prepared for the return to the family.
For the best chance of a successful transplant, organs must be removed very soon after someone has died. Because of this, the donor’s body is normally returned to the family within 1-2 days.
Losing a loved one under any circumstances is extremely hard, and most families naturally wish for the time and space to grieve.
Out of respect for the donor and their family, the retrieval of donor organs is done in a way which is designed to have the minimum possible impact on the family’s funeral plans and grieving.
From the surgical procedure itself to the return of the donor’s body, the entire process aims to be as minimally invasive as possible.
Despite this, there are persistent myths about organ donation after death and how this can affect the funeral.
Let’s look at some common misconceptions versus reality:
Through the entire organ donation process, the body is treated with care and respect. Unlike a post-mortem, where a pathologist is tasked with an extensive examination of the body, organ donation is far more specific. This means that incisions are smaller, and are carefully dressed after the donor’s organs have been removed.
When a body is clothed and lying on its back, it is impossible to tell whether or not organs have been donated.
Authorities representing eight of the major religions in the UK have states their support for the principle of organ donation. In practice, some religions and customs dictate that certain rites must be performed after death in accordance with belief.
For example, in the Jewish and Muslim faiths, burial should take place within 24 hours of death. For Muslims, ghusl (ritual washing) of the body is also an important component of burial rites in this 24-hour window.
In order to respect the beliefs of the donor and wishes of their community, medical staff can work to accommodate needs like this.
On average, the body of a donor is returned to their family in 16-20 hours. After the organ removal, the body is taken to the hospital’s mortuary where it may be collected by the family or a funeral director, in the same way, any other body of a person who died at the hospital.
If there is a special need to return the body more quickly than this- for example, due to religious requirements- transplant teams should be willing to try and accommodate this.
The cornea is a thin, clear film which covers the front part of the eye and is vital in helping you to see! Cornea transplants can help people who are blind or have an extreme loss of vision to see again.
However, there is a common misconception that cornea transplants require total removal of the eye or iris (the coloured part of the eye) from the donor.
This is not the case. In a cornea transplant, only the clear film of the cornea itself needs to be removed, and everything else remains with the donor.
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