What is tissue donation?
The majority of those who join the NHS Organ Donor Register choose to donate all their organs. However, you can also choose to donate your tissues.
Human tissue consists of cells within the body that are similar in appearance and have the same function. Donating tissue can dramatically improve the quality of life for others. As many as 50 people can be helped by the donation from one person.
Many kinds of tissue can be donated after death including skin, tendons, bone, heart valves and eyes to help repair or rebuild the lives of thousands of severely injured people. It is also possible to donate bone or amniotic membrane (part of the placenta) in certain hospitals while you are alive, during hip surgery or an elective caesarean.
Unlike organ donation, you don’t need to die in a hospital intensive care unit or emergency department to donate tissue after death. Almost anyone can be considered for tissue donation, and donation needs to take place within 24 - 48 hours of death. To ensure that all donated tissues are safe, the donor’s medical and lifestyle history is assessed at the time of donation.
What tissues can you donate?
Living tissue donation
It is possible to donate bone or part of your placenta whilst you’re alive to help others. We work with specific hospitals to give people the opportunity to donate bone and amniotic membrane (part of the placenta) when having planned hip surgery or giving birth by elective caesarean section.
We will only use tissue from a donor with their consent or with their family’s consent after they die.
If you want to make a real difference by being a tissue donor after your death, there are two important steps you need to take:
- Join the NHS Organ Donor Register
- Tell your family and friends that you have joined the register and want to be a donor so they can support your decision
Read our consent to tissue donation leaflet (pdf) to learn what it means to agree to tissue donation.
Everyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register regardless of age, as long as they:
- are legally capable of making the decision
- live in the UK.