Jeremy Hunt: Let’s discuss donor consent


SAVING LIVES: Jeremy Hunt’s health department
has launched a consultation about organ donation
SAVING LIVES: Jeremy Hunt’s health department has launched a consultation about organ donation

ASIANS URGED TO MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS

by JEREMY HUNT
Health secretary

MEDICAL science has advanced so much in the last few decades – and nowhere more so than in the field of organ transplants.

When the first heart transplants were done 50 years ago, the prognosis after sur­gery remained bleak.

Today, in the words of Professor Sir Nilesh Samani of the British Heart Foundation, the surgery has moved from “fledgling procedure to a life-changing, life-saving operation.”

But none of this is possible without the extraordinary selflessness of organ donors.

Right now, there are more than 6,500 people on the waiting list for a transplant and every day, three people die because they need an organ.

And the sad reality is a disproportionate number of these are Asian, with over 1,000 waiting for a transplant.

In fact, Asian patients typically wait six months longer for a transplant than others, partly because donor rates among these communities are so low.

This week, the government has taken an important step towards addressing this in­justice, as we launch a consultation on changing the rules around organ donation.

Our proposal is to introduce the principle of opt out, which would mean doctors as­sume an individual is willing to donate their organs unless they have said otherwise.

That means changing the law, but before doing that we want to listen to people up and down the country, from different ages, races and faiths. The consultation asks how we can make it easier for people to make their decision known, and change it if they wish.

We also ask people of different faiths to talk about how an opt-out system might impact on their faith or beliefs, as we want our new system to be sensitive to these issues.

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

Donation is a deeply personal decision, and currently families have the final say in whether or not 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.

Research by NHS Blood and Transplant shows that around two-thirds of Asian peo­ple have never talked about donation with their family.

So, I agree with Kirit Mistry, a leading campaigner for improvements in BAME transplant care.

He says we need a more open conversa­tion – and we particularly need Asian com­munities to talk about organ donation be­cause it is their lives that are most at stake.

These are hard conversations, but they could save a life.

That’s why this really matters – and why we want Eastern Eye readers to be at the heart of this debate.

You can have your say on the proposed changes to organ donation by visiting https:// engage.dh.gov.uk/organdonation/