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Donor registration – simple steps to saving lives

Fiona PI’ve written and rewritten this blog 3 times. The first draft was too emotional, the second draft too focused on fact and the third, a disjointed mix of the two. This should be easy to write because there is just one very clear message that I want to get across: sign up to the donor register and tell your friends and family your wishes.

Likewise this need to ‘spell it out’ to friends and family is the key message of National Transplant Week which was run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) between 7th and 13th July.

While awareness still needs to be raised, the good news is that, according to an article in the Express, organ donations are at an all-time high this year with the number of transplant procedures increasing by 10% on last year. However one of the biggest issues surrounding end-of-life donation is family refusal – last year more than four out of 10 families approached about it said no to donating their loved one’s organs.

organ donorIn my opinion it shouldn’t be necessary to consult loved ones when their relative has signed up to the register while alive. Furthermore I am of the opinion that we shouldn’t even be asking people to sign onto the donor register, instead we should be offering them the option to sign out of it. Establishing an automatic right to take organs when the donor has not expressed wishes to the contrary would lead to a significant increase in the number of potential donors. And by removing the need to consult family, the relatives or those close to a person who has not expressed a wish to donate would be relieved of the burden of making that decision at such a traumatic time.

Judging by the figures from NHSBT, which show that 90% of the UK population support organ donation, we could assume that were informed consent (opt out) implemented, acceptance would be high. Despite strong support, only 25% of the population are registered as donors, so it seems both logical and necessary that we make organ donation opt out. An opting out clause would mean 90% of the qualifying population being available for organ donation, versus today’s 25%. Such an increase in availability would make a massive difference to the life chances of the 7,000 people currently on the waiting list for life-saving organs.

The way the system is set up currently means that we must first make a conscious decision to register, then put in time and effort to follow through our decision by registering and finally, put in more effort to tell someone of our wishes, which any one of our relatives could then overrule at a time of great stress and grief. The stark difference between 90% of supporters and 25% of registers is testament to the need for opt out. We live busy lives. Taking time to plan for our own unexpected and sudden death not surprisingly takes a back seat. In an opt out regime effort and planning would only be needed to opt out.

I couldn’t be more supportive of NHSBT in their efforts to generate awareness during transplant week but I do believe that we shouldn’t need to rely on awareness weeks when the solution is right in front of us.

But for now, unfortunately, there are thousands of people on the transplant list relying on awareness weeks like this, hoping against hope more people make the effort to sign up.

You can’t make the decision to donate when you’re dead, so do it now. And don’t just decide, click this link, sign up, and let the world know what a nice person you are. Our own government may have been struck down by inertia, but you needn’t be.

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