What Is a Donor Card?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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A donor card may be carried by any person who has pledged to donate their organs or tissues after they die. Most countries have an Organ Donor Registry with which potential donors register and then receive their donor card. Organ and tissue donation has resulted in thousands of lives saved by transplant throughout the world.

With the advancement of modern medicine over time, organ transplantation has become possible in numerous medical scenarios from heart or liver failure to prevention of amputation in cancer patients. After a person dies, some of their organs and tissues may be transplanted into another person's body, providing that they are genetically similar. Organs that can be transplanted include kidneys, lungs, liver, small bowel and pancreas. In most countries a donor can choose which organs he or she is happy to donate, which will usually be reflected on the donor card.

Should a person be an organ donor, it is essential that the organs are obtained as soon as possible after death. It is for this reason that it is recommended that the donor card is carried at all times, in case of an accident. When deciding to become an organ donor it is wise to inform family or next of kin.


Tissues such as skin, tendons, corneas, tendons, heart valves and cartilage can be donated up to 48 hours after the time of death. Donation of these tissues can help restore vision, give skin grafts to burn victims and repair bone damage. Again, which parts of the body are chosen to be donated is completely up to the donor and should be reflected on the donor card.

Once registered with the organ donor association, a donor card will be sent which is usually filled in by the donor themselves. It usually has their personal details and which organs or tissues they wish to donate, if they wish to specify this. In most countries the donor card is signed by both the donor and one or two witnesses, preferably the next of kin.

It is important to both carry the card at all times and sign up on the registry. Signing up with the registry will ensure that, should the donor not have the donor card on them at the time of death, their organs can still be donated. Time is of essence, especially in organ transplantation, so this can make the difference between being able to donate or not.


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