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View From 'The Voice': Let's give the gift of life

Image credit: 'Huffington Post'

THE WARNING from NHS Blood and Transplant issued at the start of Organ Donation Week (September 4–10) is one that the black community should heed: our reluctance to talk about organ donation is contributing to unnecessary deaths among black people waiting for a transplant.

Figures show that only 25 per cent of black people have told their family they want to be an organ donor compared with almost half (49 per cent) of all adults in England.

Medical professionals and health campaigners have long urged black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to help end a serious shortage of organ transplants. But they face an uphill struggle in getting this message across.

As our report in this week’s hardcopy issue highlights, fear and ignorance of the process are big reasons why more of us are not coming forward to help those in need of a transplant. Some of the reasons for that fear are very real – there are numerous examples in history of scientists and doctors subjecting the bodies of black people to questionable medical experiments.

Too many organ donation campaigns aimed at the black community are asking them to do something they really don’t understand much about.

Health professionals need to devote more time and thought to how these fears and mindsets can be tackled.

But we as a community must also take ownership of the issue. A loved one, family friend, neighbour or any one of us might need a transplant in the future. It’s up to us to realise that change starts with us because the need for more black blood, organ and stem cell donors can’t be emphasised enough.

There are still barriers but the message is getting across to people of all ages in our community who are beginning to understand that it could be their family member who is affected. More African Caribbeans have joined the organ donation register.

The fact that loved ones and others in our community who need an organ suffer and die needlessly is heartbreaking.
It doesn’t need to be like this. Each of us has the power to give life by signing up as an organ donor.

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