Organ Donation- do we know enough?

9 December 2019

In 2020, the law around organ donation will be changing. This got me thinking - how much do I actually know about organ donation? The truth is, I know far less than I should and this was unfortunately the same amongst my circle of friends and family. Fortunately I attended an insightful talk hosted by various BAME groups such as Society of Asian Lawyers and the Association of Muslim Lawyers which opened my eyes to this life saving topic.

From spring 2020, the Organ Donation Act (Deemed Consent) 2019 means that all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. This new system is commonly referred to as an “opt out” system.  In other words, if you do not confirm whether you want to be an organ donor by either recording a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register or by speaking to friends or family, it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs when you die.

The reason for this change is because not enough people, including myself, are aware of the current system of how to donate. Most people support organ donation in principle and would be willing to donate their organs after death, but many people do not make this decision clear by signing on to the NHS Organ Donation Register or telling their family. The change in law aims to reduce this uncertainty and to better reflect what most people want to happen. This will help to save and improve more lives. For example, one organ donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people. A cornea could be used to help someone see again, a replacement heart valve could treat a heart defect or skin could be used to treat severe burns- the generosity is life changing.  

The BAME community in particular are very underrepresented as donors. This can be for many reasons such as faith, culture and generation differences but being from a BAME background myself, I know this is mainly because we do not talk about it. Organ donation is, I suspect, an unfamiliar topic for  the BAME community and unfortunately this is reflected in statistics. During the talk, Dr Hector Vilca-Melendez, leading transplant surgeon and Dr Pradeep of NHS Blood and Transplant could not emphasise enough on how much organs are needed from the Asian community.

A common misconception or fear is that this law is final i.e. if you don’t opt out, your organs will be taken. There was a horrible thought that the government own your body and it is theirs to take after death. But this is not the case. Your family will be consulted to make sure that any decision recorded on the NHS Organ Donor Register is your latest known decision. A specialist nurse will work with the family to help ensure that the final decision is supported. 

If you can take anything from this blog, please let it be to talk about this. We need to have active discussions about what this means and how it can affect not just your own life, but what it could potentially do for others. Speak to friends, family and colleagues. Let your close ones know your intentions. This is a very personal choice so make sure the right decision is made. 

For more information, please visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

*This will not apply to:

  • People under 18
  • People who lack mental capacity
  • People who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death
  • People who are not living here voluntarily

Further information

If you would like to discuss a possible clinical negligence claim please contact one of our Medical Negligence & Personal Injury lawyers on 020 7814 1200, or email us at clinnegenquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk.

About the author

Satvir Sokhi specialises in clinical negligence and has experience of working with clients who have sustained a range of injuries, including brain injuriesinjuries arising from birth, orthopaedic injuries and gastrointestinal injuries. 

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