Health Check Podcast: Understanding the organ donation process

Find out more about the organ donation process as ST senior health correspondent Joyce Teo speaks to Associate Professor Tan Hui Ling, in this episode. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Synopsis: Every first and third Wednesday of the month, The Straits Times helps you make sense of health matters that affect you.

Organ donation usually takes place after brain death, which is when there is total and irreversible loss of brain function. A patient with brain death cannot breathe on his own, and cannot recover, but his organs may still function for some time as he is supported on a ventilator. This is when conversations on organ donations typically take place.

In this episode, ST senior health correspondent Joyce Teo speaks with Associate Professor Tan Hui Ling, the Assistant Chairman of the Medical Board, Clinical Quality and Audit, and a senior consultant at the Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to find out more about the organ donation process and address some of the concerns that people may have about it.

At TTSH, Prof Tan spearheaded a programme to train the multi-disciplinary ICU teams (doctors, nurses, medical social workers) on the management of brain death and organ donation. 

She was the director of TTSH’s neurological Intensive Care Unit and chair of the hospital’s Brain Death and Organ Donation Taskforce from 2010 to 2018. Prof Tan was awarded the National Healthcare Group’s Distinguished Achievement Award this year for her various contributions.

In Singapore, under the Human Organ Transplant Act, all citizens and permanent residents will be considered as organ donors, unless they opt out of it. The act allows for the kidneys, heart, liver and corneas to be donated for transplantation in the event of death. 

There is also t​he Medical Therapy, Education and Research Act​, which is a voluntary opt-in scheme​ that allows any individual ​aged 18 and above​ ​to donate ​his or her organs, tissues or even the whole body​ upon death,​ for transplantation, education and research.

In 2017, the National Organ Transplant Unit introduced the donor coordinator role  to better support potential brain-dead donor families. This donation specialist will support the donor family and address their queries or concerns on the donation process. When the donor assessment starts, the transplant coordinator takes over.  

Highlights (click/tap above):

1:26 Organ donation rates in Singapore

3:41 Process of organ donations

7:04 Story about an organ donor 

17:16 What can be done to speed up organ waiting time?

Produced by: Joyce Teo (joyceteo@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis and Eden Soh

Edited by: Eden Soh

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