September 3-9 is Organ Donation Week. Find out why you need to talk to your loved ones if you want to be an organ donor.
There are currently around 6,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, including about 150 children and teenagers. Sadly, on average three people die every day in the UK while waiting for an organ transplant.
A rare and precious gift
While you’ve probably heard about the importance of becoming an organ donor, you may not realise how rare it is to be able to be a donor after you die. Organ donation is a complex procedure where everything has to be just right – only 6,000 people a year die in circumstances where organ donation is possible.
That makes it even more important that every single person who wants to be a donor makes their wishes clear, just in case it is a possibility when they die. It could be the difference between saving a life and a family losing someone they love.
Let’s talk about it
Signing the organ donor register is an important way to let doctors know that you’d be willing to be an organ donor, should you die in circumstances that allow it.
But did you know that your family also have to agree to organ donation when the time comes? Doctors will double-check with your next of kin before performing the procedure. That’s why you need to tell them if you want to be a donor.
Unfortunately, many families don’t know their loved one’s wishes. Even if they signed the organ donor register, the next of kin might be unsure and refuse to consent to donation. Less than half of families approached agree to organ donation if they are unaware of their loved one’s preferences.
That’s hundreds, potentially thousands of lives that could have been saved, if only families talked more openly about their wishes.
That’s why it’s absolutely vital that as well as signing the register, you also talk to your nearest and dearest about your wishes. Let them know why you want to be a donor – or why you’re opting out – and they’ll be more reassured should they ever have to make that decision.
The NHS Organ Donation website has more information about how to start a conversation about organ donation.
Organ Donation Week
Every year NHS Blood and Transplant holds Organ Donation Week. Businesses, charities and individuals across the UK join together to promote organ donation and encourage people to sign the register. You might see local landmarks, monuments and buildings lighting up in pink – the official colour of the Yes I Donate campaign.
Over 34,000 people signed the organ donor register during Organ Donation week 2017.
“We’d like people to just talk to their families,” said Anthony Clarkson, interim director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant.
“Words save lives. Please, tell your family you want to save lives through organ donation, because it could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
Visit the NHS Organ Donation website for more information about how to get involved during Organ Donation Week.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.