Number of organ donations to strangers trebled last year

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 16 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3209
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

A charity has hailed new figures showing a marked rise in the number of living people donating organs to someone they do not know.

The Human Tissue Authority, which assesses all proposed transplants from living donors, said that approved “non-directed” altruistic donations in the United Kingdom had almost trebled in a year—from 38 in 2011-12 to 104 in 2012-13.

Chris Burns-Cox, from the charity Give a Kidney, which was set up in 2011 to promote altruistic living kidney donations, said that the figures were “very heartening.”

He told the BMJ: “There are a lot of people who want to help others for no possible gain to themselves. It is vital we try to get enough altruistic kidneys to fulfil the need.”

He said that the media had had an important role in raising awareness of the issue and of the work that the charities were doing.

Diana Warwick, who chairs the Human Tissue Authority, also welcomed the development. She said, “Giving someone an organ is a brave and amazing gift: to do it for someone whom you don’t know is doubly so, and the huge increase in people willing to do so is incredible.”

In all, the authority approved 1243 organ donations from living donors in 2012-13, up from 1217 in 2011-12. This included 1047 directed kidney donations, 36 directed liver donations, and the first case of a non-directed liver.

The Human Tissue Authority has to ensure that donors are aware of any risks and have not been pressurised or offered any reward to donate, and has to guarantee that proper consent is given.

Warwick said that the authority was involved in more living donations each year, of greater complexity, and she expected this to continue.

NHS Blood and Transplant, the organ donor organisation responsible for matching and allocating donated organs, said that the latest figures had “exceeded all expectations.”

Lisa Burnapp, its lead nurse for living donations, said: “Sadly, the fact remains that there are currently around 10 000 people in need of a transplant, and more needs to be done to help the three people a day who are still dying [because of a] lack of suitable available organs.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3209