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Skin Bank

Contact Information
Skin Bank Unit
Singapore General Hospital
65 6321 4974


Visit to find out more about legislation acts on organ and tissue donation in Singapore - Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) and Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA)
The SGH Skin Bank and Skin Culture Laboratory was set up in 1991 to meet the skin graft needs of burn patients. Located within the SGH Burns Centre, its supporting role to the treatment of massive burn injuries is getting indispensible. This is because donor skin allograft (skin from an organ donor), procured and preserved by the Skin Bank, is deemed as one of the best temporary biological dressing for massive and serious burn injury.

However over the years, the supply of donor skin recovered was not sufficient to meet the demand of massive burn cases. There were instances when the SGH Skin Bank had to urgently request for skin allograft from tissue banks in Australia and the United States.

How do I sign up as a Skin Donor?

We encourage you to consider this selfless act and to talk with your loved ones about signing up as a skin donor. If you have any other questions concerning donation of other organs, please call the Organ Donor Registry at Tel : 6321-4390.

Sign Up Now!

Once you have decided to make this gift of life, complete and sign an Organ Donation Card in the presence of two witnesses. Mail this self-addressing form and an Organ Donor Card will be issued to you by the Organ Donor Registry, Ministry of Health. Please carry this card with you at all times so that medical personnel can be instantly alerted to your wishes.

While we are all familiar with the life-saving concept of organ donation upon death, the fact that the thin patches of skin can also have life-or-death significance to countless burns victims may not occur to us.


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About Skin Donation

Our skin is the largest human organ. It enables us to have our sense of touch, acts as a shield to protect us from heat and cold, and from environmental factors such as chemicals, ultraviolet radiation and bacteria.

Under normal conditions, our skin is able to mend itself from daily wear and tear. However, when skin gets too badly burnt or damaged, it is unable to repair itself without help. For patients with severe burn injuries, one way to promote healing is to cover the wound with donated skin.

Can skin be donated?

The Skin Bank recovers, prepares and preserves donated skin to be used for burns treatment. As with other organs, skin can be donated upon a person's death.

Using donated skin

In Singapore, the SGH Burns Centre treats approximately 200 patients each year. Most of them suffer from burn injuries due to industrial or domestic accidents. They include toddlers scalded by hot water at home and adults badly burnt by chemicals or flames. About 10% of these patients sustain major burns.

Donated skin is used as a temporary dressing for severe burns patients who do not have enough healthy skin on their body that the surgeon can use to graft onto their wounds. The donated skin helps relieve the patient's pain and discomfort, prevents risk of infection and minimises fluid loss.

Donated skin helps save lives. Without skin transplant, many severe burns patients could succumb to severe infection, leading to mortality.

How is skin recovered?

Skin is recovered from deceased donors. In order for the tissue to be useful, recovery is done within 15 hours from the time of death. The screening process for a potential donor includes reviewing of all donor medical records, physical examination and blood sampling for infectious diseases.

Using special instruments, only the outer skin is recovered. The thickness of the skin recovered is about 0.04cm, leaving approximately 85% of the donor's skin still intact.

The recovered skin pieces are processed, individually packed and specially stored at temperatures ranging from -70oC to -196oC, for up to 5 years.

Will any disfigurements occur as a result of the donation?

The donor's body is treated with utmost respect at all times. Skin is typically recovered from the deceased donor's back and lower limbs. 85% of the skin structure remains intact therefore disfigurement and bleeding are minimal. The family members of the deceased can also choose the areas in which the skin is recovered. After recovery, an open casket funeral remains as an option for the donor.

How do I sign up as a skin donor?

Be involved! Speak to your loved ones about skin donation. The identities of both the recipient and donor will not be revealed to either party and/or their next-of-kin. Share your wishes with your family, so that at the time of donation, they will know that they are acting according to your wishes.

Anyone above the age of 18 can make this life saving decision by completing an Organ Donation Pledge Form and submitting it to the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU). The form can be downloaded from

Myths & Facts about Skin Donation

1. Myth: My skin can be donated when I am alive.

Fact: Skin tissue is not donated while you’re alive. In Singapore, skin donation can only be carried out after one has passed away.

2. Myth: If I decide to donate my skin after I pass away, my body will be skinless and appear red and bloody after the donation. An open casket funeral is not possible for a skin donor.

Fact: Not true. The layer of skin that is recovered is less than half a millimeter thin. After donation, 85% of your skin depth will still be present. 
The skin tone at the donor sites will not be red and appears as a paler shade compared to the outer layer of your skin. There is also hardly any bleeding as there is no more blood circulation in the body. Skin is recovered from areas such as your back, thighs or leg areas, which can be covered by clothing. In other words, after skin donation, you will still be able to have an open casket funeral if desired.

3. Myth: I am old and my skin is wrinkled. My skin will not be suitable to be donated eventually.

Fact: The function and biological capacity of our skin should not be underestimated. It continually protects us from the environment and shields us from daily pathogens that would otherwise easily invade us and cause us to fall sick.

Every pledge made goes a long way in giving a chance for severe burn victims to receive a potentially life-saving skin graft. Before tissue donation proceeds, the donor is assessed adequately for suitability. In deciding whether to be a pledger, the appearance of one’s skin should not serve as a limiting factor.

4. Myth: Skin donation is already covered under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA).

Fact: HOTA allows for only the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas to be recovered in the event of death for the purpose of transplantation. Any other organs or tissues like the skin are not covered under HOTA, and requires a person to make a pledge under the Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act if they wish to donate upon death.

5. Myth: Becoming a skin pledger will cause distress to my family.

Fact: Whatever your decision and thoughts may be – it is advisable that you discuss with your family members and/or closed ones. Your family members will then be aware of what your decision and wishes. In an unexpected event that results in death, it eliminates the need for your family to make the decision on your behalf.

In the event of your passing on, your family members may be approached with after-life decisions pertaining to donation. If your family members are unsure whether you would have liked to donate, it may potentially cause them more distress.

6. Myth: Doctors won't save me if I am a tissue donor.

Fact: If you are ill, all medical professionals will give you the best possible care and do everything they can to save your life.