Transplantation is a life-changing treatment for disabling illnesses such as organ failure, blood and immune disorders and blindness. It is made possible by individuals who have donated their organs and tissues to those in need.

However, organ donation can be a hard topic to bring up to loved ones. It is important to share your last wishes about organ and tissue donation. Your gift could save a life.

10 things to know about organ and tissue donation and transplantation:

1. In Singapore, the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) regulates the removal of four organs – the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas. All Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents 21 years old and above and are not mentally disordered are included under HOTA unless they have opted out.

2. Anyone who opts out of HOTA receives lower priority on the organ transplant waiting list should he require an organ transplant in the future. This will be specific to the organs which he has opted out of.

3. The Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA) is an opt-in scheme, where people can pledge their organs or any body parts for the purposes of transplant, education or research after they pass away.

4. Under MTERA, anyone above 18 years old can pledge to donate his organs and/or tissues. A pledge can only be revoked by the person who made the pledge. Organs such as the heart valves, lung, bones and skin can be donated for transplantation under MTERA.

5. There is no upper age limit for organ donation.  With increasing life expectancy, healthier ageing and improvement in health technology, the condition of an internal organ is not always linked to age.

6. Organ donation will not be considered until all efforts have been made to save the life of the patient, and only after brain death has been legally declared by two well-qualified doctors who are not involved in the care of the patient.

7. A donor’s body will always be cared for with the utmost respect by the transplant team. The same surgical standards that are applied to any living patient undergoing surgery will also be applied to organ donors. Incisions made during organ recovery are carefully sutured after the procedure. In cornea donation, only the cornea is removed and a plastic cap is inserted afterwards. The eye remains intact. Skin is only recovered from concealed areas of the back and lower limbs.

8. Should death occur at home, the individual’s organs and tissues will not be eligible for donation.

9. A living organ donor need not be related to the patient, but the organ transplant must satisfy two major professional and ethical concerns. The donor must thoroughly understand the nature and consequence of the medical procedures and have given his or her consent and there must not be any emotional coercion or financial inducement to donate an organ.

10. All major religions in Singapore approve of organ and tissue donation. It is considered a gift and an act of charity.

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