Families urged to talk about organ donation before a loved one dies

Families urged to talk about organ donation before a loved one dies

Thousands of transplant opportunities are being missed because families don't know if their family member would want to donate their organs after they die.

To raise awareness of Organ Donation Week, NHS Blood and Transplant are encouraging the public to have conversations about organ donation with those close to them so that others are aware of their decision to donate.

A recent survey found that whilst 84% of people agree that it is important to let others know your views on organ donation, only 40% had shared their decision with their family or partner. As such, many people's decisions are going unfulfilled, simply because their family are unsure whether they would consent to organ donation going ahead.

In the last year, 67% of families approached about organ donation for a deceased loved one agreed to donate. 835 families did not support organ donation for reasons other than knowing that their relative did not wish to donate. The most common reason cited for not agreeing to donate their relative's organs was not knowing if it's what they would have wanted.

In 79 of these cases, the patient had expressed that they would like to donate and were overruled by their family after dying. The organ donation decisions of the rest of the 835 people were not known or recorded.

NHS Blood and Transplant estimated that, based on the average of three donated organs per deceased person, if all of the 835 families had consented to organ donations for their loved ones there could have been an additional 2,500 extra transplants.

Mikala Waters is backing the call for more families to talk about organ donation in an effort to increase the number of donors and save lives. Waters' sister sadly died earlier this year whilst on the waiting list for a kidney and pancreas transplant.

"There are thousands of people out there, whose lives have been put on hold while they wait for the call they so desperately need," she said. "Sadly, for many like my sister the time will run out. We urge families to talk about organ donation today and hopefully save others from the devastation that our family has faced. We need more donors to save more lives every day."

Families are being urged to talk about their attitude to organ donation, especially in light of the new law around organ donation in England and Scotland. From Spring 2020 in England and Autumn 2020 in Scotland, all adults will be automatically enrolled as agreeing to donate their organs when they die unless they opt out or are in an excluded group.

"Even after the law around organ donation changes in England and Scotland next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead," said Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant. "If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation with our nurses much easier if they already know what their relative wanted."

Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, expressed her support for the new law, but stressed the need to continue to talk about organ donation. "Families will still be involved before any decision is made and that's why a candid conversation this week could save lives. It is absolutely vital we all talk to our loved ones about organ donation so if the time comes, our choices will be honoured - whatever they may be."

This article has not been peer reviewed by a medical professional but has still been fact-checked and is subject to Patient’s rigorous editorial guidelines. If you have any questions or queries please message the team using the contact link below.
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