Reluctance to talk about transplants leaves families unsure of potential donors’ wishes and a reluctance to donate
A reluctance to talk about transplants is contributing to a deadly shortage of organs donation, the NHS has said after figures revealed more than 450 patients waiting for a new organ died last year because families, unsure of their deceased relatives’ wishes, declined to donate.
NHS Blood and Transplant said an average of three families a week 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.
It said that when families are left to make such a decision on their relative’s behalf, some decide it was safer to say no.
As well as the 457 people who died last year while on the transplant waiting list, a further 875 were taken off it, mainly because of ill health, with many dying shortly afterwards.
As of last week there were 6,414 people in need of a new organ on the UK transplant waiting list.
The figures prompted the parents of a four-year-old girl who died waiting for a heart transplant to call for a wider debate about organ donation.
Aoife O’Sullivan, from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, died in March 2016 while waiting for a replacement heart. She needed a transplant after heart failure from restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition that made her heart muscle rigid.
After Aoife died, her parents chose to donate her kidneys.
Michelle O’Sullivan and Neil Forsyth have backed the NHS campaign to encourage people to talk about their wishes surrounding donation during Organ Donation Week, which starts on Monday.
“Neil and I take comfort from that fact Aoife has given somebody more time with their loved ones. We feel very proud of Aoife,” O’Sullivan said.
“I would say to people: ‘Put yourself in the shoes of someone waiting for a transplant.’ If you are willing to accept an organ donation, it is only right that you should be willing to donate the special gift of life to another family.”
Wales introduced an “opt-out” register in December 2015, meaning patients had to ask to be removed from it. The move resulted in an immediate rise in the availability of organs to help seriously ill patients.
In late June Scotland announced plans for a similar system and ministers in England are considering whether to follow suit.
The British Medical Association has previously called for an opt-out system for England, saying it was backed by almost two-thirds of the public. It said that while 66% of people say they would donate their organs after death, only 39% had signed the organ donor register, the system in England.
Nevertheless, the number of organs transplanted hit a record high in 2016-17.
Anthony Clarkson, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said it was a tragedy that hundreds died unnecessarily every year.
“We know that if everyone who supported donation talked about it and agreed to donate, most of those lives would be saved,” he said.
“This Organ Donation Week tell your family you want to save lives. Don’t leave it too late to talk to your family. If you want to be a donor, your family’s support is still needed for donation to go ahead, even if you are on the NHS organ donor register.”
This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/04/silence-transplants-deadly-organs-shortage-nhs
Monday 4 September 2017 07.00 BST