Organ Donation Week is underway, with members of the public being urged to think about potentially saving lives by joining the organ donor register - and to chat to their families about their wishes.
According to NHS Organ Donation, in the UK around 6,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Around 6,000 people die each year in circumstances where they can donate their organs, yet three people die each day in need of a transplant, due to a shortage of organ donors.
The awareness campaign is a chance for members of the public to think about what they’d like to happen in the event of their death, and for families to have open conversations about their feelings around donation. Those who have already signed up are being asked to chat to loved ones about their decision, to make sure their wishes are carried out should they pass away.
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a legal and confidential way to record your organ donation decision, and takes just a couple of minutes to fill in. You can choose which organs and tissue you would be happy to donate and, if you pass away in circumstances where you could be a donor, this information can help medical staff when talking to your family about what might happen next.
Wales was the first UK nation to adopt a system of presumed consent, which came into effect in 2015. People can either actively opt in, not do anything - in which case their consent is presumed - or opt out. Although early figures haven’t shown a rise in donations, Wales health secretary Vaughan Gething has said he is confident Wales has started to ‘create a culture where organ donation is openly discussed.’
If you die without registering to donate your organs, medical staff would need to ask your next of kin to make the decision on your behalf, which can be a tremendous burden at such a difficult time. Less than half of families approached about donation agree to donate a relative’s organs if they are unaware of their relative’s decision to be a donor.
If a person has already signed up to the register, however, family members are more likely to support that decision. When a family says no to donation, someone waiting for a transplant may miss out on their only opportunity for a transplant, which could save their life.
Thinking about the possibility of your own death is never easy but, as leading providers of life insurance and other protection policies, we see how much stress can be taken away from grieving families when a person has planned well. We’ve written some helpful guides on subjects such as planning your funeral and talking to your family about death, to help you start having those difficult conversations.
Organ Donation Week runs until Sunday. An interactive donor map has also been created for NHS Blood and Transfusion to show the percentage of people in each part of the UK who have already signed up as organ donors, as well as the number of people waiting for a transplant.