NHS Organ Donor Register Failing Transplant Patients

16 Jan

Organ transplantation is the organ for a healthy place to a serious illness by surgery or other methods stake of people physically, so that this organ continue to function, allowing donors to accept a new life.

The organs of over 500 individuals who had stated their wish for their organs to be used in transplants, and were included on the NHS Organ Donor Register, could not be used after relatives refused to allow organ donation. As a consequence of these family over-rulings, more than 1,000 people have been denied a potentially life-saving transplant.
Two female hands holding a 3d printed human heart
At the beginning of this year, there were over 6,500 UK patients in need of a transplant. Many people die with healthy organs that could be used to save another’s life.

However, these organs can only be used with the express consent of the relatives. The NHS Organ Donor register, established in 1994, is a confidential, computerized database that records the wishes of people who have decided that, after their death, they want to leave a legacy of life for others.

Current legislation states that, as long as no one forced you to make the decision and you were aware of your actions, the decision you include on the register is legally valid.

However, family refusals can still prevent organ donation going ahead. It is therefore important for you also to make sure your family know that, in the case of your death, you want your organs to be donated for transplantation.

Each healthy organ that is denied for use in transplantation is a missed opportunity for someone hoping for a second chance of life, and many patients awaiting transplant only live long enough for one such an opportunity to arise.

When a family says no to organ donation, someone waiting for a transplant may miss out on their only opportunity for a transplant. Every year around 1,000 people in the UK die waiting for a suitable organ to become available for transplant.

The death of a loved one is obviously a very traumatic and emotional experience and, since there is only a short window during which organs can be harvested, families are required to give consent very soon after their bereavement.

It was thought that the Organ Donor Register would help make the decision easier, but it appears that some families are still unable to support a relative’s decision to be an organ donor.

In a recent survey carried out by NHS Blood and Transplant almost three quarters of respondents said they thought your next of kin shouldn’t be able to overrule your decision to donate after you have died.

Consequently, the organization responsible for the NHS Organ Donor Register and for matching and allocating donor organs is exploring whether there are further steps it could take to ensure more potential donors’ decisions are honored by their relatives. For example, in Scotland families are already required to complete a retraction form giving their reasons for overturning a relative’s decision to donate.

We hope that by raising this issue we will prompt more families to talk about donation and reduce the number of families overriding their relative’s decision to donate… The more we all talk about organ donation, the less ambiguity and room for misunderstanding there will be. So please talk to your relatives and tell them that should the time come, you want them to support your decision to save lives after your death.”

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant.