Organ donation allows your legacy to live on in the following ways:
- By saving lives or improving the quality of life of the recipient (read ST Story, Recording of dead daughter’s heartbeat brings parents to tears, Sep 15, 2017).
- Every year, more than 400 patients wait for a life-saving transplant. Most patients have to wait 5 to 17 years before a suitable organ is found. Some of them die waiting because there are not enough available organs.
- By advancing education and research through donation of either specific organs or your whole bodies.
Organ donation is covered under two pieces of legislation in Singapore:
Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA)
The Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) allows for the healthy kidneys, liver, heart and corneas to be removed from a person for the purpose of transplantation in the event of death from any cause.
- All Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents 21 years old and above, who are mentally fit, are automatically included under the HOTA unless you opt out.
- You would have received a letter from Ministry of Health informing you that you will be included under HOTA, including the option to opt out should you have any objections.
- If you remain under the HOTA you will have a higher priority in receiving an organ if you need a transplant in the future.
Please visit this site for more information on HOTA
Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA)
The Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA) allows for the pledging of donation of organs (including those not covered by HOTA), any body part or even a whole body for the purpose of transplantation, education or research upon death.
MTERA is an opt in scheme in which you can pledge to donate all or part of your body as you have indicated.
- Anyone 18 years old and above, who is mentally fit, can register their decision to be an organ donor.
- Family members may also choose to donate a person’s organs under MTERA upon his or her death, in cases where a person had not pledged his organs under MTERA.
Please visit this site for more information on MTERA.
Will my medical care be affected if doctors are aware that I chose to be an organ donor?
NO. Medical care for every donor will not be compromised.
- Organ donation will only be considered after every effort has been made to save your life.
- There are strict criteria and steps to be taken before an organ can be recovered under HOTA.
- HOTA only applies to death in hospitals which meet certain conditions.
When will organ donation be considered?
While some body parts such as cornea, skin and heart valves may still be donated within 24 hours after the heart stops beating permanently, important organs such as kidney and liver stop working quickly when that happens and will not be suitable for transplant.
In some cases, the brain may stop working before the heart. When there is no chance of recovery, it is known as brain death.
- Other organs such as the heart, kidney or liver may still continue to work for a short period of time after brain death, and as such, remain suitable for organ transplantation.
- In brain death, certification of death is done using criteria and tests that are accepted around the world. As part of the process, organ donation will only be considered when death has been declared by two qualified doctors who are not involved in the patient’s care. These two doctors have to make the assessments separate from each other.
How will organ donation be done?
Once brain death has been certified, the medical team will meet up with your family. Being informed of the death of a loved one can be heart-breaking and is never easy. As such, the medical team will be available to address any concerns that your family has and provide emotional support. This includes any concerns about organ donation if it has been discovered that the patient has not opted out of HOTA.
The process of organ recovery will be treated with respect. The same careful steps for surgery, as done on any living patient, will be maintained during the process. Any cuts made will be carefully repaired. It will still be possible for organ or tissue donors to have an open casket funeral and a wake is still possible.
For full body donation pledged under MTERA, the body will be transferred to the mortuary and collected by the assigned hospital/university on the same day if death occurs in the hospital. If death occurs at home or other locations, the next-of-kin should inform the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) to make arrangements for collection on the same day.
Full body donations will be used for educating medical, dental, nursing, pharmacy and life sciences undergraduates and postgraduate students, for a period of six months to four years. Following that, the remains are cremated and the ashes returned to the donor’s families if they request for them.
Why should you and your family know about your decision for organ donation?
Organ donation is a gift of life to those whose lives have been affected by organ failure. If you have decided to pledge your support for organ donation, it is important to start a conversation with your family members. It can be an emotionally difficult time for family members when their loved ones die. Being aware of your wishes, including your support for organ donation, can help them make sure that your wishes are honoured.
Please visit this site for more information.