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Organ donation – How far does giving go?

7 May 2013

In a time when the voluntary giving of time, money and energy is part of our social fabric, how far are we willing to go? 

For some people, giving continues after death.

Last year a close family friend was diagnosed with acute renal failure and placed on emergency dialysis. Since then she has been having three weekly dialysis sessions with her only hope for survival being a kidney transplant. I received a call, late one evening, from my mother – she had decided that she wanted to become a living donor and give one of her healthy kidneys to help our family friend.

Organ donation is a subject that has been discussed often in our family. My mother had made her wishes clear from an early age that in the event of her death, her organs be donated in the hope that other families may benefit. So it felt like a natural extension of her beliefs about organ donation to become a living donor.

I was hugely proud that my mother would make such a selfless choice, putting her own health at risk, to help another person. But there is an opportunity for all of us to help others by donating organs when we no longer need them. How many of us would voluntarily give up an organ? Many of us are already willing to give blood, so how is becoming an organ donor a logical next step??

A quick poll of Forster employees shows that 72% are among the 18.5 million people (March 2012) already on the UK organ donation register. A recent article by James Meikle of the Guardian highlights the issue of family members overriding the wishes of registered donors in up to 45% of cases. It’s possible that in many of these instances a lack of knowledge and understanding of the donor’s wishes between family members may have resulted in the decision to refuse permission.

Forster’s work in the end-of-life charity sector has shown that people are often unwilling to discuss end-of-life decisions because of the emotional barriers surrounding the topic. Arguably through planning for the future with the support of friends and family can help to assuage the anguish of loved ones and ensure personal wishes are respected in the event of a relative’s death.

Have you considered organ donation? Have you told your family?

If not, I would encourage all those who have or are intending to join the NHS Blood and Transplant register to discuss your intentions with friends and family to ensure that in the event of your death you can be assured your wishes will be carried out.

For more information and advice on how to become an organ donor visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk