It shouldn’t have to take a brush with death – like the one I experienced the other week when I flew head-first over the handlebar of my bicycle – to start thinking about organ donation. Millions around the world live with failing organs, and their only hope is the gift of life only an organ donor can give. Many are fortunate to receive a transplant and start a new life, but thousands die every year (including 1,000 people in the UK alone) before an organ becomes available.
It doesn’t matter how you begin to talk about organ donation, it’s just really important that you do. Most people support organ donation, but research shows that half of all adults in England have never talked to anyone about it, and even less have told someone that they’re a registered organ donor.
People give many reasons for not having talked about it. Some of the most common are that it didn’t come up; that people don’t really want to talk about death; or that they just haven’t got round to it yet. Understanding that organ donation can be a delicate and difficult subject to bring up, the NHS has some useful hints and tips to make talking about it easier.
If families don’t know their relative’s decision, they probably won’t agree to a donation in case of a person’s death. This changes if the decision is known. Overall, families are more likely to agree to organ donation if they know it’s what their relative would have wanted. And many families say donation helps with their grief. They feel enormous pride in knowing their relative went on to save lives after they died.
I feel that all countries should have opt-out systems of organ donation. Research shows that countries with opt-out policies in place have higher numbers of organ donations, and therefore have the power to save many more lives.
So, please talk it over and help your loved ones to support your decision. I’ll do the same with my family. Start a conversation today and help turn an end into a beginning.