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Health Secretary calls for more organ donation

CRISIS: It was recently established that black organ donations have hit an all-time low.

HEALTH SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt has called on people to overcome a “fatal reluctance” to talk about organ donation with relatives, as he launches a major public consultation on plans to introduce a new opt-out system.

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that in the past year around 1,100 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure, or did not know whether their relatives would have wanted to donate an organ or not. Every day three patients die, needing a new organ.

In October, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will change to an ‘opt-out’ system, shifting the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation, in a bid to save the lives of the 6,500 people currently waiting for a transplant.

Currently, 80 percent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs, but only 36 percent register to become an organ donor. It is hoped that changing the system to an opt-out model of consent will mean more viable organs become available for use on the NHS, potentially saving thousands of lives. With the launch of the consultation today, Mr Hunt is starting an open conversation about opt-out organ donation.

Over the next three months, the Government is asking for comments on the defining issues of the new system:

- How much say should families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs?
- When would exemptions to ‘opt-out’ be needed, and what safeguards will be necessary?
- How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?

Mr Hunt said: “Every day, three people die for want of a transplant, which is why our historic plans to transform the way organ donation works are so important. We want as many people as possible to have their say as we shape the new opt-out process.

“But as well as changing the law, we also need to change the conversation – it can be a difficult subject to broach, but overcoming this fatal reluctance to talk openly about our wishes is key to saving many more lives in the future.”

Currently, 25 percent of black people have told their family they want to be an organ donor compared with almost half of all adults in England.

This is significant as less than six percent of deceased donors are black, meaning that, in some case, these patients are waiting six months longer for a suitable kidney transplant than white patients.

IMPACT

Eric, from Bromley, received a kidney transplant 2005 and has since campaigned to raise awareness about the lack of black donors:

“Until it impacted me, I was very ignorant about how desperate the situation was. We need more people to be involved in this conversation. My experience inspired me to get involved in campaigning and I now raise awareness through volunteering for various kidney organisations and charities, specifically raising awareness in the black and ethnic community.”

Orin Lewis, Chief Executive of Afro-Caribbean Leukemia Trust & Co-Chair of National BAME Transplant Alliance, said: “As a parent of a young man who sadly passed away from Multiple Organ Failure, I gladly welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to instigate a much needed public Consultation on the relative positive and negative merits of England having an Opt Out Donation policy. Looking forward I am expecting a wide spectrum of heated but ultimately constructive views and opinions from key stakeholders across the public domain, with the end goal of ultimately saving many more lives across the wide diversity of patients in England needing an organ transplant.”

Millie Banerjee, Chair of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to the lifesaving power of organ donation, which is demonstrated by their desire to hold a consultation into an opt out system. We support any initiative which leads to more organ donors and more lives being saved. We hope the consultation starts a national conversation about organ donation. If you want to donate, please tell your family now.”

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