More people than ever before across the UK donated their organs after their deaths last year, according to the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2015/16, being published today. In East Sussex, 34 people received a potentially lifesaving or transforming transplant last year.
However, the report also shows that around 4 out of ten families in the UK did not agree to donate a relative’s organs. When a family says no to donating, someone waiting for a transplant may miss out on their only opportunity for a transplant. Sadly, in East Sussex last year, fewer than five or fewer people died before they received the organ they desperately needed.
More lives across the UK would be saved if more families agreed to donate their organs after death.
NHS Blood and Transplant is drawing attention to the situation in East Sussex in the run up to Organ Donation Week, which starts on Monday (5 September0. This year’s theme is 'Turn an end, into a beginning', emphasising how each of us could give someone the chance of a new beginning by telling our families we want to be an organ donor.
Organ donation is a relatively rare event in the UK, because although around half a million people die each year, only around 1% do so in circumstances which allow organs to be donated. As the families of potential donors are approached by specialist nurses and asked to support their relative’s decision to be an organ donor, it’s hugely important that families know what their relative would have wanted to happen.
During the week long campaign NHS Blood and Transplant, hospitals, health teams, charities and individual supporters and their families will urge families to talk about organ donation. Talking about your organ donation decision to your relatives makes it much easier for them to support what you want.
While we encourage everyone to have the conversation, there is a particular need to encourage more black and Asian families to talk about organ donation. In 2015/16, only 5% of all deceased donors came from a Black Asian or Minority Ethnic background and families from these communities are more likely to say no to donating a relative’s organs than white families.
This is a particular concern as Black and Asian people are more susceptible to, conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and certain types of hepatitis, making them more likely to need a transplant. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic patients make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list. Although some are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic donors are needed to improve the chances of these patients getting the kidney transplant they need.
Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said, “We’re very grateful to every family in East Sussex who supported a relative’s decision to donate or who made the decision to donate on behalf of their relative last year. Quite simply, without them being willing to support donation more than 3,500 transplants couldn’t have taken place in the UK. Many families in East Sussex tell us they take huge comfort in knowing that their relative has saved the lives of others.
“We recognise that families are approached about organ donation at a difficult time, but with almost all of us prepared to take an organ if we need one, we need to be ready to donate too. Think about what we would want others to do for us if we ever need a transplant and be prepared to donate. Talking to your relatives about what you want is crucial as it is much more difficult to agree to donation when you don’t know what the patient would have wanted. There are 66 people in East Sussex waiting for a transplant now and they need people to agree to donate for them to get the organ transplant they so desperately need.
“It is especially important for people from our Black and Asian communities to talk about organ donation. I realise that this is a very difficult subject but there are many Black and Asian people who need a transplant. While some are able to receive an organ from a white donor, others will die if there is no donor from their own community.”
If you would like to help others after your death tell your family your want to be an organ donor and join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register go online or call 0300 123 2323.