Organ and Tissue TransplantsFrequently Asked Questions

Organ transplantation is the surgical removal of an organ or tissues from one person (the donor) and placing it in another person (the recipient). Organ donation is when you allow your organs or tissues to be removed and given to someone else. Most donated organs and tissues are from people who have died. But, a living person can donate some organs. Blood, stem cells, and platelets can also be donated.

South Africa has a world class reputation for successful transplant outcomes, both in terms of survival rates of the recipients and in the number of organs that are able to be transplanted from each donor.

Transplantation has dramatically improved the lives of recipients and enabled them to be active, healthy members of the community. There are significant cost benefits to transplants when compared with the ongoing cost of treatment for people requiring transplants.

When families remember discussing donation, they are more likely to consent to their loved one becoming a donor.

The number of people needing a transplant continues to rise faster than the number of donors. About _____ transplant candidates are added to the national waiting list each month. Each day, about ____ people receive organ transplants. However, about ___ people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

There are no age limits on who can bean organ donor. Newborns as well as senior citizens have been organ donors. If you are younger than 18, you must have a parent’s or guardian’s consent.
If you are 18 years or older, you can show you want to be an organ and tissue donor by signing a donor card. You can download and print an organ donor card at ftp:________ (new design in process)

Carry the card in your wallet. In some provinces, you can state your intent to be an organ donor on your driver’s license. To learn more about organ and tissue donors , visit

If you want to be an organ donor, make sure your family knows your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a con- sent form in order for your donation to occur. You may also want to tell your family doctor, lawyer, and religious leader that you would like to be a donor.

People with certain medical conditions cannot donate an organ. This includes people with:

  • HIV -South Africa has a huge HIV-positive population and for this reason an HIV-positive-to-positive transplant programs were started at Groote Schuur Hospital in 2008 for HIV-positive patients with end-stage renal failure.To date 22 patients have received transplants, with good outcomes.

  • Actively spreading brain cancer

  • Certain severe, current infections

In some cases, if you have another disease or chronic medical condition, you can still donate your organs.

There are now more than 5000 people on the waiting list for solid organ transplants. Experts suggest that each of us could save or help as many as 50 people by being an organ and tissue donor.

Talk with a leader in your church, synagogue, or religious organization before making a decision about whether to donate your organs. You may be interested to know that most religions support organ and tissue donation as a charitable act of love and giving. Visit our page for all religion view points

Organs of the body that can be trans- planted include:

  • Heart

  • Liver

  • Lung

  • Pancreas

  • Intestines

  • Kidney

People who are living can donate a kidney or part of the:

  • Lung

  • Liver

  • Intestine

  • Pancreas

Tissues that can be donated include:

  • Cornea (coating of the eyeball)

  • Middle ear

  • Skin

  • Heart valves

  • Bone

  • Veins

  • Cartilage

  • Tendons

  • Ligaments

Stem cells, blood, and blood platelets can also be donated.

The transplant recipient’s health insurance policy or Medical aid usually covers the cost of a transplant. The donor’s family neither pays for, nor receives payment for, organ and tissue donation.

Some people who get transplants
have a hard time affording the cost
of the transplant or related expenses.

No. Many people think that if they agree to donate their organs, the doctor or the emergency room staff won’t work as hard to save their life. This is not true.

No. Donation does not change the appearance of the body. Organs are removed surgically in a routine operation. It does not interfere with having a funeral, including open casket services.

You can donate your whole body to medical science. But, you can’t donate your whole body and be an organ or tissue donor. If you wish to donate your whole body, you should contact the facility of your choice to make arrangements. Medical schools, research facilities, and other agencies need to study bodies to gain greater understanding of diseases in humans. This research is vital to saving and improving lives.

Yes, if  he/she  lives in South Africa and has registered as an Organ and Tissue donor with the next of kin consent being available.

After you receive an organ transplant, you should get to know your pharmacist and take steps to stay healthy.

Most people who have a transplant need to take a lot of medications. You may need to take some medicines several times a day while others are only taken on certain days. The doctors who did your transplant may have to change your mediations or adjust the dosages every few days or weeks. It’s important to find a good pharmacist who can help you understand your medications and manage your medication schedule. He or she can help explain how the medicine works, what the side effects may be, and how to keep track of your medications.

Your doctors will continue to monitor your health for many years after surgery. You will have a lot of lab tests, and you should try to understand the purposes of the tests to make sure the results are accurate. You will also take medication that stops your body from rejecting the transplanted organ, called immunosuppressants (IHM-yuh-noh-suh-PRESS- uhnts). This may make you more likely to get infections, and it may be harder for you to recover from some infections and illnesses.

Healthy lifestyle options are good choices for organ recipients as they are for everyone. Your transplant center can help you develop a plan for healthy eat- ing and appropriate physical activity.

Sometimes organ recipients want
to thank the family of the donor. Sometimes donor families want
to check on the health and well- being of the organ recipient. But, transplant centers are required by
law to protect the confidentiality
of donors and recipients. However, they can arrange for contact between families when both sides agree. Usually, the process begins with a letter from the recipient to the donor family sent in care of the transplant center. Guidelines vary by center.

Just the corneas are permitted for donation. Otherwise there is risk of transplanting organs containing cancer clusters that could grow because of the immunosuppression given to prevent rejection in the transplant recipient.

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