It’s organ donation week and with the recent change to an opt-out system of organ donation in the UK, we’re thinking about how to share your wishes with loved ones.
Death can be a bit of a taboo subject - no one likes thinking about dying, let alone talking to their family about it.
But making sure your loved ones know your wishes when it comes to organ donation is crucial to help save more lives and avoid someone dying every single day whilst waiting for a match.
We’ll look at the new laws around organ donation in the UK, why it’s so important to share your wishes and some ideas on how to start this important conversation with your family.
Max & Keira’s Law
Up until May 2020, those wishing to donate their organs had to proactively register themselves as an organ donor.
Named after an inspiring young girl Kiera who saved four lives when she tragically died aged 9, Max & Kiera’s Law changes organ donation in the UK to what’s known as an “opt out” or deemed consent system.
Under the new system, all adults in England who die will be considered as organ donors unless they’ve recorded their decision not to be a donor.
This change doesn’t apply to certain groups:
- Children under the age of 16
- People lacking the mental capacity to understand the new law and register their preference
- UK residents who’ve been here less than 12 months
- People who are not resident in the UK voluntarily
- Those who have nominated someone else to make the decision on their behalf
Why is it important to share your wishes?
Now that it’s changed to an opt-out system, it might be tempting to avoid talking to your family about your wishes.
However, your loved ones will still have an important role to play if, unfortunately, you’re in a position where your life cannot be saved and organ donation is an option.
Once death is inevitable and end-of-life planning has begun, medical teams consult the individual’s family and can only go ahead with donation with their consent.
If your family aren’t aware of your wish to be an organ donor, an important and rare opportunity to save lives may be missed.
Just one in a hundred people die in circumstances where organ donation can be considered. With 4350 people on the waiting list, it’s important to make the most of any opportunity to find the right match.
Preparing to talk about organ donation
If you’re nervous about talking to your family about organ donation, doing a bit of research may help you communicate the impact of organ donation, answer any questions or concerns they may have and explain why it’s important to you.
The NHS has a website dedicated to finding out more about organ donation: organdonation.nhs.uk.
Here are some of the sections you might find it helpful to look at:
Ways to start a conversation
Having that talk about organ donation can be daunting but knowing what your family members want when they’re gone can help give peace and clarity in what will be an incredibly difficult moment.
Here are a few ideas on ways to start the conversation:
- Use organ donation week! The coverage and increase in conversation about organ donation this week may well mean that it’s crossed your family’s mind already, making it a great moment to share your wishes.
- Use a social media post: Whether it was a personal post from a friend or a post from an organisation like NHS Organ Donation it could be a good starting point to say “I saw something interesting today that made me think…”
- Use a news story: similarly, finding a news story that touches on organ transplant can be a good way to work the topic into conversation. It could be something like the British Transplant Games in Leeds next year or an inspiring organ donation story.
- I’ve been thinking about ways I can make a difference
- I saw a statistic today that really surprised me
- I saw an article today that made me think
- There was a really moving story in the news today
- I want to share something important with you
If it feels easier, you could try writing out a rough script or practising by telling a friend first.
Picking the right moment and drawing on the research you’ve done will help you explain why being a donor is important to you and that your family know your wishes and more lives can be saved through the incredible gift of life that is organ donation.