Organ donation in South Africa | Western Cape Government

Organ donation in South Africa

Organ donation infographic

Organ Donation is a medical procedure where one person donates an organ or tissue to another person who needs a transplant.

People who need an organ or tissue transplant are usually very sick or dying because one or more of their organs are failing. One organ donor can save up to 7 lives and transform over 50 lives. 

As an organ donor, you can save the life of someone who is suffering from a life-threatening disease or someone who was in a serious accident.

Approximately 4700 people are waiting for a life-saving organ or cornea transplant in South Africa, but only 0.2% of our population are registered organ donors.

Organ and tissue donation is a simple choice that will cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time to register. Organ transplants are undertaken in both government and private hospitals in the Western Cape, and currently, heart, kidney, cornea and liver transplants are carried out at the following government hospitals: 

  • Groote Schuur Hospital
  • Red Cross Children's Hospital
  • Tygerberg Hospital

7 Questions about organ donation answered​

  1. Who can be an organ/tissue donor?

You can become a donor if:

  • you’re under the age of 70,
  • you’re in good health, and
  • if you’re clear of any predefined chronic diseases that might cause further health complications for the recipient(s). 
  1. Can I donate an organ/tissue while I'm alive?

Yes, in some cases. Live donations, such as kidney transplants, are often done between family members because the blood groups and tissue types are more compatible, ensuring a high success rate.

  1. Which organs can be transplanted?

Your heart, liver and pancreas can save 3 lives, and your kidneys and lungs can help up to 4 people.

  1. Which tissues can be transplanted?

You can help up to 50 people by donating your corneas, skin, bone and heart valves.  

  1. What's the difference between an organ and a tissue donor?

The concept is the same: A person decides that after their death, someone else should benefit from healthy organs and tissue through transplantation – rather than going to the grave with the rest of their body.

Organs are retrieved when a patient is brain stem dead, still in hospital and mechanically supported on a ventilator. Few people's circumstances in death come to this point.

  1. Can I agree to donate only some organs or tissue and not others?

Yes, you can. Please inform your family which organs/tissue you don’t wish to donate.

  1. How long after death must the organs/tissue be removed?

Organs/tissue must be removed as soon as possible after brain death to ensure successful transplantation. Brain death has to be certified by 2 independent doctors.

For more information about organ donation, visit the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on the website of the Organ Donation Foundation.

Registering as a donor

You can register as an organ donor by:

Once you’ve registered, the Organ Donor Foundation will send you an organ donor card to carry in your wallet and stickers to stick on your ID book and driver’s licence to make your intentions known in case of an emergency.

Giving consent

The most important thing is to talk to your family.  Inform them of your wish to become an organ donor, as your organs can’t be procured for transplantation without consent from your next of kin.

Parents need to give written consent if they permit their babies, toddlers and teenagers younger than 18 to be organ donors.

Other important links:

The content on this page was last updated on 24 August 2023