Hundreds of transplants missed each year because families didn’t know relative’s wishes

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A reluctance to talk about death is leading to hundreds of life-saving transplant opportunities being missed, say the NHS.

More than three families a week are refusing donation of their deceased loved ones’ organs - because they didn’t know what their relative wanted.

This means more than 450 lifesaving organ transplants are being missed each year as families decide to say ‘no’ rather than guess at what their relative’s views might have been.

NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed the figure to mark Organ Donation Week (September 4 to 10) and is urging people to tell their families they want become life-saving organ donors. The reluctance to talk about the issue is contributing to a deadly shortage of organs and leaving families to make a difficult decision when someone they love dies.

Last year 457 people died while on the active transplant waiting list and a further 875 people were removed from the list, mainly due to ill health. Many of these people will have died shortly after being removed.

There are currently 6,414 people waiting for a transplant.

Anthony Clarkson, Assistant Director of Organ Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It’s a tragedy: hundreds of people are dying unnecessarily every year waiting for transplants.

“We know that if everyone who supported donation talked about it and agreed to donate, most of those lives would be saved.

“This Organ Donation Week, tell your family you want to save lives. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference. It will also make things much easier for your family to make the right decision.

“If you want to save lives, don’t leave it too late to talk to your family. If you want to be a donor, your family’s support is still needed for donation to go ahead, even if you are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

“And if you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant? Would you accept a lifesaving organ? If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”