Who can become a donor
With around 500 people each year waiting on an organ transplant and not enough donors to help all of these people, all of us can do something to help - whatever our age, and whatever our health.
For organs, the deciding factor is the donor's physical condition rather than their age. Organs from people in their 70s and early 80s and tissue, such as corneas from those in their early 90s are often transplanted successfully.
In every case, specialist healthcare professionals will decide which organs and tissue are suitable to be donated and can be transplanted based upon individual circumstances – so don’t let your age or health stop you from registering your decision.
Having an illness or a medical condition does not necessarily prevent you from becoming an organ or tissue donor.
The decision about whether some or all of your organs or tissue are suitable for transplant is made by specialist healthcare professionals at the time of donation. The families of a potential organ and tissue donor are always asked a number of questions to assess the potential donor’s medical, travel and social history.
There are very few conditions where organ donation is ruled out completely. However, a person cannot become an organ or tissue donor if they have had or are suspected of having:
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) or variant CJD
- Ebola virus
- Current active cancer where the cancer is not in remission (although cornea donation may still be possible for those with active cancers)
- Current infection with a range of viruses, including the Zika virus
- Untreated tuberculosis
- Certain conditions that are very rare in the UK, including anthrax, rabies, yellow fever, dengue virus or West Nile virus
For both organ and tissue donation, blood samples from the donor are tested for infections, such as HIV, hepatitis, Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) and syphilis, which can be passed through donated organs or tissue.
Can you become an organ and tissue donor if you smoke?
It is still possible to become an organ and tissue donor if you smoke. Specialist healthcare professionals decide in each individual case whether a person's organs and tissue are suitable for donation, and smokers and people with other health conditions have saved - and continue to save lives through organ donation.
Can you become an organ and tissue donor if you have a tattoo?
Having a tattoo does not prevent you from becoming an organ or tissue donor.
Can you become an organ and tissue donor if you drink alcohol?
Drinking alcohol does not prevent you from becoming an organ or tissue donor. Although a heavy alcohol intake might affect your ability to donate some organs, specialist healthcare professionals will decide which organs and tissue are suitable for donation on a case by case basis.
Can you become an organ and tissue donor if you are unable to donate blood?
Yes, in many cases. If you don’t or can’t give blood you can still be a potential organ donor.
There may be specific reasons why it has not been possible for you to donate blood or there may be reasons why you could not give blood because of your health at the time.
The decision about whether some or all organs or tissue are suitable for transplant is always made by a specialist healthcare professional at the time of donation, taking into account your medical history.
In Scotland, children between the age of 12 and 16 can record their own donation decision on the register.
If a child is under the age of 12, a parent, their closest family member or a person with parental rights and responsibilities (e.g. their legal guardian) can register a donation decision for their child.
Your decision could give someone else a second chance of life. Read inspiring stories from transplant recipients and donor families about the difference donation can make.