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Kidney donor cards, England, 1971-1981

Organ transplants are the best treatment for those with organ failure. Kidney donor cards, like this one, were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1971. There was and still is a shortage of donor organs and supplying the demand relies upon voluntary donations. The cards were made to be carried by donors as evidence that they were willing to donate their kidneys should they, for example, be killed in an accident. In 1981, the kidney donor cards were changed to include other organs such as the heart, liver, cornea and pancreas. The wishes of the 15.1 million donors in the United Kingdom are recorded on the National Health Service (NHS) Organ Donor Register, set up in 1994. There have long been calls to increase the numbers of potential donors by introducing an ‘opt-out’ scheme to replace the ‘opt-in’ system that exists at the moment.

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Glossary: transplant

Surgical operation to introduce organ or tissue from one person (the donor) to another (the recipient). It may also refer to the transfer of tissues from one part of a person's body to another part of the same person's body.

Glossary: donor card

A card indicating the consent of the holder to use his or her organs for transplant in the event of death.