If you donate organs after death, you can help persons who are very sick. They can stay alive with a donor organ, like a kidney, lungs or liver. Tissues are also important. And thanks to the eye tissue of a donor, people with visual problems can sometimes see again.
In the Netherlands, more than 1,000 persons are on an organ waiting list. About 150 individuals die every year while waiting for an organ. On average, a deceased person donates 3 organs. Thus, these organ donors save the lives of about 800 persons every year. One would think that this takes care of everyone on the waiting list. That is not the case. The waiting list just keeps getting longer.
No, not everyone can donate their organs or tissues after death. A doctor will assess upon a person’s death whether the organs or tissues are suitable for donation.
Even if you are sick, sometimes even if you have (or have had) cancer, a blood transfusion, or if you take medication, you can still be listed in the Donor Register with ‘yes’. An organ or tissue that is damaged by disease or medication can sometimes become ineligible for transplantation. But other organs or tissues may still be suitable.
And this may change in the future. Medical science is solving more and more problems. While a person may not able to donate now because of a disease, in a few years that same disease may no longer constitute a problem.
Yes, you can. You can still donate if you are sick or taking medications. Upon your death, the doctor will assess which organs or tissues can still be used for a patient. Sometimes organs or tissues are no longer suitable for transplantation. They may be damaged or diseased, for example. But other organs or tissues may still be suitable for transplantation.
No, you yourself cannot decide who gets your organs or tissues after your death. That is stipulated by law. One reason for it is that in the Netherlands, everyone must be able to get the same level of healthcare. An organ goes to the patient on the waiting list who needs it most urgently, and who is the best fit for the organ.
Everyone can specify their choice in the Donor registry. Your sexual orientation does not make a difference. .
Yes, even if you have an unhealthy lifestyle, it can be helpful to put a ‘yes’ in the Donor registry. If a donor organ does not become available in time for a person on the waiting list, they will die. Then, for example, the lungs of a smoker would be better than their own diseased lungs. The liver of a drinker can sometimes help a liver patient. A doctor will assess in advance whether the organs or tissues can still be used for transplantation.
Age is less important in organ and tissue donation. Donation can be done from birth to old age. A doctor will assess the suitability of every organ or tissue. Skin donation is only possible from age 20. The heart of an 80-year-old is generally no longer suitable for donation, but that person may still be able to donate kidneys.
Yes, all the organs and tissues that you can donate are listed on the donor form. You may want to donate some organs and tissues but not others. You can specify this on the donor form.
No, only skin without tattoos is used if someone gives permission for skin donation. Donor skin does not grow like a person’s normal skin, it is mostly used to reduce the pain of burn wounds and scarring.
Tattoos are not included, the harvest team works around them. The donor is given a covering after donation so the tattoos are no longer visible. Because skin is not taken from the arms, neck, face and chest, tattoos that are there will remain visible when the deceased is viewed.
Organ donation can only be done when people die at the hospital, for example because of a severe stroke or an accident. In this way, a person may be able to donate organs after their death. Authorisation is always needed from the donor or from their family. Only when it is certain that a patient is going to die does a doctor take a look in the Donor registry to see the choices that were made.
If there is a ‘yes’ or no objection entered in the Donor registry or the family has said ‘yes’, then the hospital can start the testing. The physicians may take an ECG or blood tests, for example. They will ensure that the body stays at the right temperature. Organ donation can take between 10 and 24 hours, sometimes even longer. If there is a ‘no’ in the Donor registry, then there will be no donation and no testing.
Donation of tissues works out more often than donation of organs. In such cases it doesn’t matter whether you die at home or at the hospital. Special teams harvest the tissues at a hospital or another suitable space. They follow strict rules when doing so.
After a patient dies, a doctor takes a look in the Donor registry to see the choices that were made. If there is a permission for donation, the doctor will report the donor to the Dutch Transplant Foundation, and the donation process will get started.
Altogether, tissue donation takes between 8 and 28 hours.
After your death, you can donate the following organs and tissues: liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, small intestines, kidneys
Tissues: eye tissue, heart valves, large vessels, skin, bone, cartilage and tendons
Organs save lives. Without these organs, no one can stay alive.
Tissues can greatly improve the patients’ quality of life.
The chances are not that large. Organ donation is quite exceptional and does not happen often. There are various reasons for this. An organ donor must always die in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital and be receiving artificial respiration. The organs must still be suitable for transplantation.
The chance is 1 in 200 that a person can become an organ donor after death. This considers that the deceased or their family has given permission for this.
Definitely. Organs and tissues are only harvested when doctors are 100% sure that a person has died. Death is diagnosed according to strict rules, and by several physicians.
Donation and family
No. Family members cannot change your choice just like that. The doctor will almost always honour the choice you made in the Donor registry. That is what you wanted. If there is a very good reason, a doctor may decide differently.
By family we mean relatives of the first and second degree, or the deceased’s legal representative if they are not present.
By loved ones, we mean all people near to the deceased, such as friends and others who played a role in the deceased’s life.
An organ or tissue donation must be done with the utmost care, so it takes time. Altogether, organ donation can take between 10 and 24 hours, sometimes even longer.
The time between diagnosing brain death and harvesting organs is between 4 and 12 hours. If the heart and blood circulation have stopped, there is less time. As soon as blood is no longer circulating through the body, organs quickly become less suitable for transplantation. This is why harvesting of organs begins quickly after death is diagnosed.
If the body of a tissue donor is refrigerated within six hours, tissues can still be harvested for transplantation up to 24 hours after death. The tissue donation procedure can thus last between 8 and 28 hours.
Certainly. There is always someone for the family and loved ones at the hospital. During the entire duration of the donation process, a hospital staff member (such as the organ donation coordinator) will be in touch with the family.
Yes. Removing organs and tissues is always done with great care. Doctors consider it very important for a donor to look presentable after the operation. They do not remove anything from places that are visible when a body is viewed. Stitches with bandages are applied on operated areas. When covered by clothing, there is no visible evidence of the donation.
With skin donation, the funeral director or the family cannot wash the body any longer.
Yes, there is always time to say goodbye. Family and loved ones can be with the donor before and after the donation. After the donation procedure, the family itself determines what happens with the deceased. The family can also choose the viewing location, at a funeral centre or at home.
Yes, you can. A funeral or cremation can take place on the day chosen by the family and does not need to be postponed because of the organ or tissue donation.
No. There are no costs involved. The family of the donor doesn’t pay anything for donation. The insurance of the patient receiving the organ pays the costs.
Donation and religion
Many religious people have an important question: Does my body have to stay complete after my death, or is charity more important? As a religious person, you will want to have an answer to this question before entering their choice in the Donor registry.
There can be different opinions within one religion or even differences within groups of one religion. We therefore advise you to ask your questions within your own religious community. And talk about it with people who are important to you in your religion.
Choice: Yes, I grant permission
You want to become a donor. You can donate the following organs: pancreas, intestines, heart, liver, lungs and kidneys;
You can donate the following tissues: blood vessels, bone, heart valves, cartilage, tendons, skin and eye tissue.
You may want to donate some organs and tissues but not others. You can specify this on the form.
Choice: No, I do not grant permission
You do not want to become a donor.
Choice: My partner or family will decide
Upon your death, your partner or family are allowed to make the choice.
Choice: The person I have appointed will decide
You want someone else to decide for you after your death
The Donor Act changed on 1 July 2020. If you do not make a choice in the Donor registry, the following will automatically be put next to your name: ‘no objection to organ and tissue donation’. That means that following your death your organs can be donated to a patient recipient. The doctor in hospital will always discuss this with your family. If your family knows for sure and can explain to the doctor that you did not want to be a donor, you will not be a donor. That means it is very important that your partner and family know your choice. And even more important, that you enter this choice in the Registry.
Yes, you can at any time. You can do this by logging in with DigiD under ‘Your registration'.
If you do not have a DigiD, then fill in a new donor form under ‘Your registration’ at donorregister.nl. You will receive a confirmation of your change in the Donor registry.
This letter asks you to enter a choice. What if you do not enter anything after the first letter? Then you will receive a second letter, as a reminder. If again you do not specify anything, ‘No objection against organ donation’ will be listed under your name after 6 weeks. You will be sent another letter about this. You can always change your choice at any time at donorregister.nl.
New to the Netherlands
If you are registered with a Dutch municipality and are 18 years or older, you are entered in the Donor registry. You receive a letter asking you to enter your choice if you have been living in the Netherland for at least three years and are registered with a local authority. What if you do not enter anything after the first letter? Then you will receive a second letter, as a reminder. If again you do not specify anything, ‘No objection against organ donation’ will be listed under your name. You will get another letter to confirm this.
Back in the Netherlands
Did you live in the Netherlands previously and now you have returned? Then you must specify your choice again in the Donor registry. Your choice will be removed from the Registry if you move abroad.
If you return to live in the Netherlands (again), you will receive a letter after three years. This letter serves to remind you to enter a choice.
No, you only have to specify your choice once you turn 18. You will automatically be sent a letter about this at that time. Children aged 12 and older can already enter their choice if they wish, but this is not mandatory.
When it comes to organ and tissue donation, a person must be able to understand what it is about. The person must also be able to understand the consequences of the choice they make. If the person cannot do that, then they are legally incapable for organ donation.
If someone is legally incapable, his or her legal representative can make a choice about organ and tissue donation on behalf of that person.
When an organ or tissue is harvested, a doctor can discover that it is not suitable for transplantation after all. For example, the quality of the organ or tissue may be inadequate. Or they may unexpectedly be found to be damaged or diseased. In such cases, the organ can be used for scientific research. Through this research, physicians learn more about transplantation.
This is different than donating your entire body to science.