Today (1 November), the Welsh Government launched a major new campaign focusing on the role of families in the organ donation process.
The hard-hitting advertisement shows an individual’s choice to donate his organs being over-ridden by family members, because he didn’t talk to them about his decision or his registration on the organ donor register to become a donor. In 2016-17 data published by NHS Blood and Transplant showed there were 21 cases in Wales where families either overrode their relatives’ decisions to donate organs, or didn’t support the deemed consent.
With an average of 3.1 organs retrieved per donor in Wales in 2016-17, this could have resulted in as many as 65 additional transplants.
Abi Roberts works as a Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation (SN-OD) in Bangor. She is one of 12 Specialist Nurses employed by NHS Blood and Transplant in Wales. She says: “I’m a Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation for Betsi Cadwaladar Health Board in North Wales where I ensure that families are provided with the information and support they require to support their relatives’ decision about organ donation in the first few hours after their loved one has died. There are currently over 6,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list in the UK, with three people dying every day waiting for suitable organ donors. It’s vitally important that we all make time in our busy lives to discuss our organ donation decisions and to share that choice with our loved ones, so that they can honour it when the time comes.
“Organ donation is a very personal decision and can never minimise the grief of a bereaved family but many families have said that it provides some comfort knowing that their relative has been able to save and transform the lives of others. Some people find talking about organ donation a difficult subject to drop into everyday conversation. But there are many timely prompts to register your organ donation decision and share it with friends and family such as renewing a driving license or joining a new GP surgery. Moments like these will also help your loved ones recall the discussion more clearly when the time comes and feel confident in honouring your decision.”
On 1 December 2015, Wales was the first country in the UK to move to a soft opt-out system of consent to organ donation. This means that if a person has not registered a decision to become an organ donor (opted in) or a decision not to become an organ donor (opted out), they will be considered as having no objection to being an organ donor – this is known as deemed consent. However, if individuals don’t tell their family of their decision to donate, the family may not honour that decision and over-ride the organ donor registration or not support deemed consent.
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: “We want to encourage everyone across Wales to talk with their loved ones about their organ donation decision. We know awareness and understanding is increasing, but it is really important we reach the Welsh public on this issue. We have seen huge improvements in our consent rates, in March 2013 they were just 50% but in March 2017 they increased to 64%, however while there are people dying waiting for their transplant we must work harder to further increase the consent rate to have a significant impact on reducing transplant waiting lists.
“Your family will be involved in any discussions about organ donation if, when you die, you are in a position to donate your organs. This could make an already difficult time more stressful if families have never discussed organ donation. I encourage everyone across Wales to talk to their loved ones about their organ donation decision to ensure they will honour it.”
Simply having a chat can help benefit the people of Wales and the UK by reducing the number of people dying whilst waiting for a suitable organ to become available, and transforming the lives of others.
You can register a decision at any time by calling 0300 123 23 23 (Calls to this phone line will be answered by NHS Blood and Transplant) or visiting www.organdonationwales.org or by telling your family (and friends).