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We need to talk about organ donation

PICTURED: Jeremy Hunt

THE MEDICAL profession has made incredible leaps forward since the first organ transplants over 60 years ago.

Right now 50,000 people are alive thanks to the work of our surgeons and the extraordinary selflessness of organ donors.

Yet there is still more to be done.

Every day, three people die because they need an organ, and the sad reality is a disproportionate number of these are black.

In fact, over 1,000 black patients are on the organ waiting list. They typically wait nine months longer for a transplant than others.

The reason is that donor rates from the black community are low, which means it can be difficult to find the right organ match for transplant.

We want to change this so that we can give black patients on the transplant list a fairer chance of timely treatment.

That’s why the Government has started a conversation on changing the rules around organ donation.

We believe the right thing to do is to introduce the principle of opt out because we know that many people would be happy to donate their organs, but never make this decision known.

Going ahead with these reforms should increase the number of people who might consent, whilst respecting the decision of those who do not.

But before we change the law, we want to listen to people up and down the country, from different ages, races and faiths.

There are many sensitivities and nuances in this debate. We want to hear about how our proposals may impact on different faiths or beliefs, as it is essential that our new system is sensitive to these issues.

Most important of all, we are asking how families should be involved in organ donation.

Donation is a deeply personal decision, and currently it is families that have the final say in whether their loved ones organs can be donated.

In many cases families make the extraordinary decision to say yes.

But we know this doesn’t always happen, and one of the reasons is people aren’t clear about their wishes.

In fact, over three quarters of black people have never talked about donation with their family.

So it is vital we listen to Orin Lewis, Chief Executive of Afro-Caribbean Leukemia Trust & Co-Chair of National BAME Transplant Alliance, who has campaigned tirelessly to increase the number of organ donors.

He says we need a more open conversation, and wants to see some of the myths surrounding organ donation challenged by the black community.

For the many hundreds of people currently waiting for life-saving surgery, it is important we start that conversation today.

It may be a difficult topic, but it could save a life.

You can have your say on the Government’s proposed changes to organ donation by visiting

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