In organ donation, a donor, either living or deceased, offers to allow some or all of their organs to be used to save or improve the lives of others. Organs are removed from a donor by a surgical team, preserved for a short period of time, and then transplanted into a waiting patient. The recipient of donated organs will typically need to be placed on medication to reduce the risk of organ rejection but will generally be able to lead a normal life. The organs from one donor can save or improve a number of different lives and will be used to help as many people as possible.
Someone wishing to donate their organs after death can make their wishes known either with a special legal document or by selecting the appropriate box when applying for a driver’s license. After a patient has been pronounced clinically dead by a medical team that has made every possible effort to save his or her life, the organ donor status will be checked. If the patient agreed to donate his or her organs, they will be carefully removed and distributed to the pool of potential recipients based on compatibility and medical need. The body of the organ donor will be respectfully treated and carefully preserved, allowing for an open casket funeral, if wished.
In cases where organ donation involves a living donor the process is somewhat different. A medical team will carefully evaluate the health of the potential donor and determine if he or she can safely donate an organ. If a living donor can safely give up a kidney or a portion of another organ, then he or she will undergo surgery, during which the organ or organ tissue is removed. The organ will then be implanted in a recipient. Living organ donation offers the advantage of generally healthier organs and is also a better way to find close matches for transplant recipients, as family members can often donate organs with a lower chance of rejection.
After organ donation, the recipient will typically go on to lead a relatively normal life. Drugs will often be used to suppress the immune response so as to prevent organ rejection, and there are some side effects associated with these drugs. A living organ donor will go on to lead an entirely normal life, as a transplant team is not medically allowed to perform a transplant if that operation would pose a long-term risk to the donor.
There are many good reasons to engage in organ donation. The organs from one donor can save or improve many lives, and there is always a shortage of willing donors. Very strict protocols are in place to ensure that donors and non-donors both receive exactly the same excellent care. The only major risk associated with live organ donation stems from the fact that donation does involve surgery — and there are always some risks associated with surgery — but medical personnel work assiduously to minimize these risks.