Are people of all ages fit for organ donation?
Every day, more than 2,000 patients suffering from end-stage organ failure in Hong Kong are waiting for organ transplants (Table 1). While many of us would like to support organ donation by registering our wish to donate organs after death, some may hesitate because of their own age or health status. In fact, supporting organ donation is an act of benevolence that everyone, irrespective of his or her age, background, and health status, can carry out in order to rekindle the lives of those in need.
Some elderly people incorrectly believe that only young people can donate organs after death. In fact, there is no limit to age for organ donation in general. Organs may be donated by a newborn or one as old as 75. As for tissue donation, the age limit is below 80 in the case of corneas, between 16 and 60 in the case of long bones, and 10 or above for skin.
On the other hand, young people may think that they are too young to consider organ donation. In fact, most organ donors are victims of accidents or death of acute illness. If their wish of organ donation after death has not been documented or made known to their family members when they are alive, it will be difficult to execute their wish after death. Thus, even young people may consider organ donation.
How about those who suffer from chronic diseases or have unhealthy lifestyle choices? Most people, including those suffering from brain cancer without secondary spread, can donate organs or tissues after death. Moreover, people of most cancer types can still donate their corneas after death even though their other organs are not suitable for donation. The transplant team will assess all potential donors individually to decide if their organs are truly suitable for such a purpose.
You can support organ donation via “Organ Donation 3S”:
Sign-up: You can register your wish to donate organs after death at the Centralised Organ Donation Register (www.codr.gov.hk).
Speak out: When a person has passed away, the clinical team would need the family’s consent to proceed with organ donation operation. As such, it is very important to inform your family members of your wish.
Spread-out: You can encourage your family and friends to support organ donation and rekindle the lives of those in need.
To learn more about organ donation, please visit the Organ Donation Thematic Website (www.organdonation.gov.hk) and follow the Facebook page ”Organ Donation@HK” (https://www.facebook.com/organdonationhk).
Table 1. Number of patients waiting for transplantation under the Hospital Authority
|Organ / Tissue||Number of patients waiting for transplantation (as of 30/06/2021)|
Source: Hospital Authority