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Families urged to speak openly about organ donation

As many as 2,500 more organs could be made available if donors made their wishes clear to relatives

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 03 September 2019

As many as 2,500 more organs could be made available for transplant in the UK if families spoke more openly about donating after death, says NHS Blood and Transplant which coordinates the the Organ Donor Register.

The new laws around organ donation have already taken effect in Wales, and England and Scotland will follow suit next year, but Northern Ireland will not be adopting it.

The changes mean that consent to donation will be assumed, so people will have to opt out of the scheme, rather than the current system of opting in.

But families will still have a veto, even if the wishes of the patient were that they clearly wanted to become a donor.

Last year there was a record number of donors - 1,600 in total. But about a third of the newly-bereaved families who were asked decided against their loved-one's organs being used.

NHS Blood and Transplant hopes the more that people talk about their wishes, the easier it will be for relatives to agree to donations.

Anthony Clarkson is director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "Even after the law around organ donation changes in England and Scotland next year, families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead.

"We urge everyone to register their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your family the choice you have made.

"If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation with our nurses much easier if they already know what their relative wanted."

Around 6,000 people in the UK are waiting for a transplant, but 400 will die before an operation can go ahead. Families have the final say on whether or not organ donation goes ahead, even if the patient has expressed a wish to become a donor.

Last year, more than two-thirds (2,181) of the families of potential organ donors agreed to a donation. But 835 families did not want to, mostly because they had never discussed organ donation with their loved one. There were a further 229 families who turned down the request, saying that their relative had made his or her views clear.

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