Questions and answers about organ donation

Who can donate. What can be donated

Which organs can be donated?

These organs may be transplanted from a deceased person: Heart, both lungs, liver, both kidneys and pancreas, in total 7 organs. It is possible to extract cluster cells called islets of Lagerhans from the pancreas that can be used as a form of treatment for diabetes patients. A liver can be divided into two parts. As a living donor you can give one of your two kidneys to a family member, relative or close friend.




Are there any illnesses or medicines that can hinder donation?

Everyone can say yes to organ donation. With each case a comprehensive medical assessment will be carried out determine whether organs are suitable for transplantation. Illnesses like cancer, diabetes and Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) does not exclude organ donation. Nor does medicine use.


Is there an age limit to be an organ donor?

There is no upper or lower age limit to be an organ donor. There is a need for organ donation in all ages.

The oldest donor in Norway was 89 years old. For heart and lung transplants there is a practical upper age limit for donation of 50-60 years. For other organs, e.g. the kidneys or liver – there is no age limit as long as the organs themselves are healthy. If you have said yes to donation and given your consent then healthcare personnel will confirm if organ donation is possible when the situation applies.

If you are under 16 years of age, then your parents/guardians details must be given as your next-of-kin on your donor card.


Can children be donors?

Yes, as there is also a need for organ transplantation for children. Organ donation can be applicable for small infants.

Children can fill out their own donor card but their parents/guardian must be included as the next-of-kin. Parents/guardians can also write their child’s name in their own donor card.


Can a donated organ be used by anyone that needs it?

There must be certain compatibility or a ‘match’ between the giver and receiver. The most important criteria is:

  • The blood group must be the same (blood group compatibility)
  • The person’s height and weight is same or similar (for heart, lung, and liver transplants)
  • That immunological conditions allow transplants

If necessary, blood type can be reviewed in both liver and kidney transplants. In some instances, the liver can be divided into two parts and be transplanted to two patients. In liver transplants for children, an adult liver is always divided due to space limitations. In kidney transplants there are certain requirements for tissue compatibility


Why are there more stringent requirements for blood donation than organ donation?

When an organ transplant is carried out, both the donor and the receiver will be known. The donor and receiver undergo a thorough medical examination to ascertain a donor match. This is not the same process as giving blood. When blood is first stored in a blood bank, the giver is anonymous, and blood is often distributed to many different patients in different situations.


What is family donation?

The term ‘family donation’ is used when a person gives one or their two kidneys to a relative, so a donation from a living donor. Norway is one of the countries in the world that conducts the most kidney transplants from living donors, in relation to the total population. This is good news for both donors and receivers.

The Norwegian government has signalled that kidney donation from living donors shall be held at 40 %.


What does it mean that tissue type should match? (Tissue compatibility)

Tissue type is a term used to describe a collection of similar cells in each person that are important for immune recognition of foreign substances such as viruses, bacteria products, damaged cells etc. Tissue type varies from individual to individual and they define each one of us immunologically. ‘Matching’ tissue can be defined as trying to find tissue’s that are most similar in appearance, and this be done by using different laboratory techniques. The importance of matching tissue has become somewhat less used with modern immunosuppression (reduction of the immune system) but is still used in kidney transplants.


How distant can a family member be to be a potential kidney donor?

In principle, there are no specific limits as to how close or distant a family member should be. People other than relatives can also be donors. Asking a relative or a non-relative to be a donor should be based on a need rather than a possibility. There is no ‘kidney bank’ in Norway where you could donate to a stranger.


How is determination of death decided? What is the law on the criteria of death?

Regulations of the Act provide clear and comprehensive instructions on how confirmation of patient death should be confirmed. This includes a cerebral angiography of the brain – this is an X-ray that shows that there is no longer a blood supply a to the brain. The brain is then said to be irreparably damaged (also known as brain death). When all requirements are met, a death certificated is issued and signed by two doctors. At this point, death is determined as certain.



Why should donors and donor receiver’s be anonymous?

The reason why anonymity is practiced is that the relationship between donor and receiver can be a difficult one especially for the families concerned. We have seen unfortunate examples of difficulties experienced in other countries. Both parties may have different motivations: receivers often have a desire to express gratitude and continue to live their lives, while the donors next-of-kin may build a lifelong relationship with the receiver of the donor as a consolation of their loss. This can be a psychological burden for both parties.

For this reason Oslo University Hospital, and The Norwegian Foundation for Organ Donation recommends that those receiving a transplant or the relatives of the organ donor(s) do not release the exact time of transplantation. The season and time of year is ok


If I say yes to donate tissue do I also say yes to organ donation?

In the new donor card when you sign you agree to donate organs and tissues. The lifesaving organs are: Heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas.

Examples of tissue are corneal bone and skin. Although tissue is not a lifesaving organ and includes procedures other than organ donation, tissue donation can be of help to many people. For patients with a diseased or damaged cornea, a transplant could mean that these people could get their sight back.

The most important thing is that whatever you want to donate, the people closest to you know this and they can confirm this if/when asked.