Donation after death

If a patient dies in hospital, the treating doctor should consult the Donor Register.

Donor register

The Dutch Transplantation Foundation (NTS) handles this consultation, which can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a deceased person’s wishes regarding donations are registered (’Yes’ or ‘No objection’) or if the deceased person has not actively registered their wishes, the NTS notifies the potential donor. In addition, the tissue donation procedure at all times requires the next-of-kin’s consent.

If a person has indicated that they do not wish to be a tissue donor, or the next-of-kin strongly object, tissue donation following death cannot take place.

Medical assessment and tissue retrieval

For deceased donors, the Dutch Transplantation Foundation (NTS) checks whether the proposed tissue donation complies in principle with medical approval criteria. If that is the case, this fact is notified to the Weefsel Uitname Organisatie Nederland (Dutch Tissue Retrieval Foundation) (WUON), the organisation that is responsible for retrieving donor tissue from the deceased.

The WUON sends specialised teams to the donor’s location and ensures that the tissue is retrieved within 24 hours following death and delivered to the tissue banks that can take receipt of this tissue. Eye tissue, skin tissue, and heart valve tissue may be retrieved in mortuaries. Bone and tendon tissue is retrieved in an operating theatre, to preserve sterility.

Following retrieval, further information about the donor’s prior medical history and their possible high-risk behaviour with regard to infectious diseases is further assessed by assessment doctors from the NTS. This information is also obtained by consulting the donor's general practitioner and reviewing the results of post-mortem examination, if one has been carried out. Furthermore, information from a physical inspection of the remains is assessed, and blood samples from the donor are sent for investigation for the presence of markers of infectious diseases. These blood tests are carried out by Sanguin Diagnostiek, a certified test laboratory that is licensed to carry out such tests.

On the basis of the extensive medical assessment, the NTS finally determines whether the donor has been found suitable for tissue donation or whether the tissue retrieved can be included in the tissue banks.