Organ donation is something hardly talked about, maybe because people don’t know or understand much about it; this is why it is so important to know what it is and how it affects you.

Organ donation is the act of giving an organ to save or improve the life of someone who needs a transplant. You are able to donate some organs while you’re still alive, for example, a kidney or a part of your liver but most organ and tissue donations come from people who die and often, these are the most transformative donations where vital organs are given.

Even if you haven’t thought about whether or not you want to donate your organs, it is important to know about the laws and what will happen. 

Not many realise that the law is soon changing.

As of Spring 2020, all residents of England (over the age of 18) will be subject to a new law around ‘deemed consent’ that means you have to ‘opt out’ of giving your organs if you die in good health.

This means that all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups (those under the age of 18, people who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action and those who have lived in England for less than 12 months).

This means that, contrary to the old law where you had to ‘opt in’ and actively make the choice to donate your organs, donation is now the default.

If you do nothing, your healthy organs will be donated, given to hospital patients who need them or labs where they use them for research. This means that every patient who dies is considered a potential organ donor if they are eligible and one has to specifically object to donation.

Last year the government publicly announced that the legislation would be commonly referred to as Max’s Law, in recognition of all the campaigning Max Johnson and his family were doing when Max was waiting for a heart transplant and have continued to do since receiving the heart he so desperately needed.

Max’s gift of life came from a young girl named Keira Ball, who tragically passed away aged 9 years old. Her parents made the selfless decision to help others through their own tragedy.

Back in December 2015, similar legislation was introduced in Wales and the effects have been remarkably impressive. Wales now has the highest consent rate in the UK at 80.5%, when compared to England (66.2%), Scotland (63.6%) and Northern Ireland (66.7).

Even after the law has changed, you still have a choice. People all over the world need organs now. But right now, 6,279 seriously ill people are waiting for life-saving transplants (in the UK). Unfortunately, 3 people die each day in need of a transplant. 

But why you? It is so important to have a range of organs from as many people as possible; of all ethnicities, ages and backgrounds so anyone who needs a transplant can be given one.

One organ or tissue donor can influence and enhance up to 75 lives. In 2017, a study proved that around 50,000 lives had been saved, due to an organ donation, now there have been so many more.

Some agree that it is our responsibility to continue to look after and help save the lives of as many people as we can. 

Organs aren’t only used for transplants but for research into groundbreaking treatment options, such as islet cell transplantation. This is a new way for the pancreas to produce insulin and it is a move towards curing or helping reduce the limitations of having Type-One Diabetes which is, at the moment, an irremediable condition. 

Even though all the major religions and belief systems in the UK support the principles of organ donation and transplantation and accept that organ donation is an individual choice, some people disagree and believe that their faith restricts or discourages transplants as it in some way, offends God or their faith.

For some it is a moral dilemma that might seem to contradict their faith or personal beliefs because everyone interprets their own faith differently. Everyone’s own opinion and choice must be respected.

However, whatever you decide or your opinion is, the most important thing is to talk to people and tell them about it. 

Surveys show around 80% of people support organ donation. However only 33% of people have told their family that they want to donate. In circumstances where a family does not know their loved ones wishes, they are far more likely to refuse to give their consent to organ donation.

Figures show around 3,000 life-saving transplants were missed in the last year because families said no to donating their relative’s organs. This is understandable but frustrating when you realise that this could be prevented by a simple conversation.

If you think it’s a problem or your worried about donating or don’t want to, saying ‘no’ is easy. Now, it only takes a few minutes, online to fill out a form to register your decision and say no to donation.

If you can’t be bothered to take a few minutes out of your day to follow up your views, are they really that strong? 

Organ donation is a way of teaching us all that our lives matter and we, as individuals are so important. Even if you feel that you are insignificant or irrelevant in the big scale of things, everyone is still responsible for helping others survive.

Every individual life is important because it only takes one life to save another.

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

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