Although people with multiple sclerosis can't give blood or donate bone marrow, the donation of organs is allowed. This is because the recipients of organ donations can be told about the donor and are in a position to weigh up any associated risks. With transfusions of blood this is not possible, as the blood is stored and given out anonymously.
We don't know exactly what triggers multiple sclerosis to develop in a person, although we know about a number of risk factors. This means that we can't be sure that a transplanted organ from a person with MS won't set off the condition in the person who receives the organ. However, the recipient might well be happy to take that chance, if it means that a more serious condition is improved.
Donating organs for transplantation
The NHS has an Organ Donor Register which operates throughout the UK and allows you to register your decision to donate, or not donate, your organs for transplantation after death.
England, Scotland and Northern Ireland currently have an opt-in organ donation policy where your consent is required to allow your organs to be donated after your death. In 2015, Wales introduced an opt-out policy meaning that if you haven't recorded your organ donation decision (to either opt in or out) on the Organ Donor Register, you will automatically be treated as having no objection to donating your organs.
From 2020, there will be an opt-out policy in England as well. There are also plans for Scotland to move to an opt-out scheme in the future. In Northern Ireland there is currently a consultation on whether an opt-out policy will be adopted here too.
Donating tissue for research
The Human Tissue Authority regulates organisations that remove, store and use human tissue for research, medical treatment and education. Their website features a list of brain banks including the UK Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Tissue Bank, which stores tissue from the brain and spine of donors for research projects. This tissue bank provides information for those considering registering as a donor.
Giving blood and bone marrow
People who have been diagnosed with MS cannot donate blood or bone marrow, however they can be considered as organ donors.
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