Organ donation in South Africa

Organ donor info

More than 500 000 people die in South Africa every year of which 12% are due to violence, motor vehicle accidents and unnatural head injuries. By comparison, less than 300 transplants are performed annually of which skin donation is a small fraction.

The reality is that 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
  • George 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 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 a kidney transplants, are often done between family members, because the blood groups and tissue types are more compatible which ensures 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 his / her own death, someone else should benefit from healthy organs and tissue through transplantation – rather than it 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 actually come to this point.

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

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

  1. How long after death do the organs / tissue have to be removed?

It’s essential that organs / tissue are removed as soon as possible after brain death in order to ensure successful transplantation. Brain death has to be certified by 2 independent doctors.

If you want to find out more 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 been successfully registered, the Organ Donor Foundation will send you an organ donor card to carry in your wallet as well as 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 give permission for their babies, toddlers and teenagers younger than 18 to be organ donors.

Watch the Organ Donor Foundation television advertisement

Other important links:

The content on this page was last updated on 31 July 2017