Jan 24, 2023 at 3:27 PMUpdate: 8 minutes ago
Last year there were more people in the Netherlands who donated organs than ever before. Due to the increase, more and more organs can be transplanted. NUjij readers then asked: how does an organ donation actually work? We figured it out.
An organ donation starts with a look at the Donor Register. When someone dies, the doctor looks in the Donor Register. This registers whether or not someone wants to be a donor. In the Netherlands, everyone is automatically an organ donor, unless someone indicates that they do not want this or leaves the choice to next of kin. The doctor discusses the patient’s choice with the family or asks the family to make a choice. They also receive information from a specialist who knows everything about organ donation.
The doctor then examines whether the organs are still good. The doctor does this, for example, with ultrasounds or X-rays. If the organs are usable, the waiting list is checked in a specially designed computer program. The one to whom the organ best suits is called up. You do not know in advance to whom your organs or tissues will be given. An organ or tissue that has been damaged by disease or medication can no longer be used for transplantation. But other organs and tissues may still be suitable. On average, such a donor donates three organs.
A team of doctors then performs the necessary surgery. That can take hours. If the donor has also ticked tissue donation in the Donor Register, the operation will take longer. The donor can determine in the registry which organs and tissues may be donated. One of the options is: all organs, but not the skin. After the operation, the body of the deceased is returned to the family. The whole process can take 12 to 24 hours. If the next of kin want it, they will be told after six weeks whether the organ donation was successful.
All this must be done quickly, because organs remainn and uitname usable for about 24 hours. Because the blood supply stops, the organ begins to die after removal. All Dutch hospitals therefore have a special team available 24/7. This team works from a university medical center and travels to the donor hospital in an ambulance-like bus. Everything needed to perform the operation is carried in the van.
After surgery, the organs are packaged and shipped to the recipient patient. Ice and machines slow down the death of the organ during transport. Two companies carry out the transport for the Dutch Transplantation Foundation. Only with heart and lung donations, a team from the receiving hospital will perform the operation itself and then take the organ to the receiving patient. This is because of the specific urgency of these bodies.
A car used for organ donations. Photo: ANP
Organ donation is a controversyersial subject. Both religious and ethical considerations play a role in the discussions surrounding organ donation. Some religions have specific rules about bodies of the deceased and prohibit donation. NU-Jij reactions also show that there are some hesitations, because a doctor has to declare a donor brain dead or has to determine that the blood circulation has stopped.
The Brain Death Protocol obliges doctors in the Netherlands to carefully determine when someone is brain dead. Only a few hours before it is certain that a patient will die, doctors are allowed to look in the Donor Register. The donor operation only takes place after death. When a person has been diagnosed with brain death or if the blood circulation has stopped, it means that someone has died medically and legally.
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