Organ donation is a beautiful voluntary gift

CARE launch new campaign to highlight organ donation

3rd Sep 2018 - Rachael Adams

As Organ Donation week 2018 begins today, public policy charity CARE is launching an online campaign which celebrates those who have donated organs and calls on people to think about whether this is something they would like to do.

The week, which runs from September 3rd until September 9th is based around the theme of ‘words saves lives’.

This is because family opposition remains the number one reason why organ donations are blocked in the UK.

During organ donation week 2017, 34,000 people joined the organ donation register.

At the moment, according to NHS figures, there are around 6,000 people on waiting lists for an organ donation and transplant.

Recently the Government announced its plans to introduce a new system of organ donation, known as opt-out organ donation and in the announcement, they claimed it could save up to 700 lives a year. However, an independent factcheck of that claim found it to be false and based on uncertain estimates.

The opt-out system is controversial, however and the global evidence is inconclusive as to its effectiveness. In Wales, which introduced an opt-out system in 2015, it has resulted in over 180,000 people opting out because they took offence at the idea of the state presuming their consent. All their organs have effectively been lost from the donation system whereas previously they could have been donated by their families.

As Organ Donation Week 2018 beings, CARE is calling on the Government to instead prioritise spending its resources on measures proven to work, in particular increasing the availability of specialist organ donation nurses.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has shown that investing in specialist organ donation nurses dramatically increases the number of organ donations. Their research found that the rates of family consent were 68.6 per cent when a specialist nurse in organ donation approached the family, but just 27.5 per cent when the approach was made by other staff without the specialist training.

CARE’s Spokesperson, James Mildred

 “We know that organ donation saves lives and it represents a beautiful gift when someone chooses to voluntarily donate their organs so others can benefit.

“This week is a great opportunity to encourage everyone to start having conversations within their families about organ donation and whether we want to donate or not.

“Last year during organ donation week, more than 34,000 people joined the organ donation register which is simply fantastic and shows what can be achieved through raising public awareness.

“Waiting for an organ donation can absolutely agonising because you never know when the right organ might become available and it is right to seek ways to increase organ donation levels.

“CARE understands the desire to increase organ donation levels and we have always argued that we should be doing so in an ethically responsible way and in a way that is proven to be effective.

“In this connection, the Government’s plans to move to an opt-out system are deeply concerning.

“Both ethically and from the point of view of the international evidence, shifting to an opt-out system is problematic and not guaranteed to work.

“In fact, it diverts money away from measures that have been proven to work in increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.

“That’s why we are calling on the Government to instead recruit more specialist nurses because we believe this is one measure that is proven to help increase the number of organ donations.”

Ends

Notes to the editor:

For more information please contact Rachael Adams on 020 7227 4731 / 07581 153 693 or rachael.adams@care.org.uk

More information on organ donation week can be found here.

CARE has repeatedly warned that an opt-out system may not work:  CARE on BBC Radio Scotland talking about why an opt-out organ donation system may not lead to an increase in organ donations. CARE on BBC Radio Cumbria on why opt-out organ donation doesn't work and CARE on Sky News warns of opt-out organ donation policy.

Organ donor opt-out system 'unlikely' to increase donations

Govt opt-out organ claim based on 'uncertain estimates'

The Nuffield Bioethics Council said last year that there should be an increase in specialist organ donation nurses: http://nuffieldbioethics.org/news/2017/ethics-tank-calls-discussion-wishes-organ-donation-death

On Opt-out system in Wales:

The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 brought a soft opt-out system into force in Wales in December 2015. There is now recent evidence of the impact of the opt-out system in Wales, published in November 2017, which is of particular relevance given the similarities in the context. The evaluation found that there has largely been limited impact on deceased donation, although it suggests that a longer time is needed to draw firmer conclusions about the impact of the change in the law in Wales."  Para 31

"The evaluation found that there was high awareness of and support for the soft opt-out system among the general public and NHS staff. Awareness has generally increased over time, although there has been a slight drop in public awareness recently as awareness-raising had eased off. This suggests that campaigning needs to be maintained continuously. The evaluation of the Welsh system also examines understanding about the role of the family in the opt-out system. It concluded that there was a need to improve understanding among the public and NHS staff of the role of the family in decision making as there was some misunderstanding about the overall role, what happens if the family is distressed, family ability to ―override‖ and the family providing evidence of a known objection held by the deceased." Para 32 

"The evaluation found that there was an increase in consent rates for donation, but that routine data did not show any consistent change in deceased organ donation in Wales. Given the increase in levels of consent, the evaluation suggests that either a lower number of eligible donors (i.e. those who die in circumstances where donation could proceed and who do not have known medical conditions which mean donation is known not to be feasible) or fewer families being approached about donation have been factors in there not being an increase in the number of donors. There has also been an increase in the proportion of people on the ODR. Whilst this is encouraging, the evaluation also concluded that a longer period of time is needed to draw firmer conclusions about the law and other associated changes." Para 33 

Organ Donation Transplants table:  

Deceased Organ Donor Transplants 2014/15-2017/18

  2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Wales 128 168 135 139
Scotland 300 332 348 375
England 2,834 2,931 3,155 3,411
Northern Ireland 79 100 75 115

Source NHS Blood and Transplant[1]

[1] https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/supporting-my-decision/statistics-about-organ-donation/

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