1. What is organ donation? Why should I donate organs?
For patients with organ failure, organ transplantation is the only way to help them recover. Not only can organ donation grant those patients a new lease of life, but it will also improve their quality of living. There are over 2000 patients with organ failure waiting desperately every day for organ transplants in Hong Kong. However, the organ donation rate has been low. There were only 3.9 deceased organ donors per million people (pmp) in 2019, lower than 6.7 pmp in 2018, and far below those in the western countries1. As a result, many patients waiting for organ transplant passed away before a suitable organ was available.
Reference: (1) The International Registry of Organ Donation and Transplantation; (2) Department of Health
2. What organs can be donated? Where do they come from?
Organs that can be donated include heart, lung, liver and kidney. Other than organs, some tissues can also be donated. They include bone, skin and cornea.
There are two sources of organ donation: living and cadaveric donation. Organs suitable for living and cadaveric donation are different:
- Living donation: Kidney and liver are organs suitable for living donation. Healthy adults who wish to donate a kidney or part of his/her liver have to pass through a series of psychological and medical assessment before transplantation of organ takes place.
- Cadaveric donation: Kidney, liver, heart, lung, cornea, skin and bone are suitable for cadaveric donation. Brain-dead patients can donate their organs and tissues to patients suffering from organ failure hence enabling the later to extend their life.
3. What is the Centralised Organ Donation Register?
The Department of Health established the Centralised Organ Donation Register in 2008 to create a more convenient mean for prospective donors to voluntarily register their wish to donate organs after death, and for such wish to be more reliably recorded. The Register will enable medical staffs and bereaved family to acknowledge the wish upon the patients’ death to facilitate the arrangement of transplantation.
4. Is there any age limit to register as an organ donor?
There is no age limit for registration at the Centralised Organ Donation Register (CODR). However, make sure that you tell your family about your wish to donate organs.
5. Is there an age limit to donate organ?
There is no strict age limit for cadaveric donation. In general, organs may be donated by someone as young as a newborn or as old as 75. As for tissue donation, the age limits are below 80 for corneas, between 16 and 60 for long bones and 10 or above for skin.
For living donation, according to the “Human Organ Transplant Ordinance”, organ donors must reach the age of 18 years in order to perform living donation.
Reference: Department of Health
6. How do I sign up as organ donor?
- Register online via www.codr.gov.hk
- Complete the registration form in the organ donation promotional leaflet and send it by post or fax to the CODR System Administrator, Department of Health.
- By post to: CODR System Administrator, Department of Health, 21/F, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong；or
- By fax to 2127 4926
- When registering, you can choose to donate all or some of organs and tissues (kidney, liver, heart, lung, cornea, skin and bone) according to your preference.
- Upon receiving your organ donation form, the Department of health will contact you by telephone to verify your personal particulars.
- Prospective donors which have successfully registered with the CODR do not need to carry the organ donation card with them
Reference: Department of Health
7. How does the organ donation process work?
Currently, brain death is the criteria for cadaveric donation in Hong Kong. When there are potential brain death cases, the following procedures would be initiated:
- Two senior independent doctors who are not related to any organ donation matters will conduct two separate assessments to confirm brain death of a patient.
- Medical team informs organ donation coordinator who will communicate with bereaved family to render care and counselling.
- The medical team assesses the suitability for organ donation and maintains the function of the deceased’s organs.
- Organ donation coordinator obtains consent from bereaved family for transplantation.
- The medical team conducts relevant examinations and matchings to identify the suitable organs for donation.
- Arrange organ / tissue removal and transplantation.
- The body is sent back to the ward.
- The coordinator accompanies family members to bereave the donor.
8. After I donate the organ, do I/my family have to bear the medical charges arising from organ donation?
– Cadaveric donation: Fees and charges arising from organ donation after the death of donors are not to be borne by their family.
– Living donation: Except for private hospital services, charges arising from the pre-operative examination, operation, the follow-up as well as treatment arising from organ removal are not to be borne by the living organ donors.
Reference: (1) Department of Health; (2) Hospital Authority
9. Who should I contact if I have questions on organ donation or the process of registration?
If you have any questions about organ donation or the process of registration, you may call 24-Hour Health Education Hotline of the Department of Health at 2833 0111 or the organ donation website of the Department of Health. You are also welcome to call HKOTF at 35958555 or click HERE to contact us.