The black community is being urged to take part in a groundbreaking consultation, which is proposing fundamental changes to help increase the number of organ donors in this country, and potentially save the lives of hundreds of black people.
The government consultation is due to close on 6 March. So far nearly 13,000 people have shared their views – but less than one percent of respondents identify as being black, Afro-Caribbean or black British.
Patients from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities can wait on average nine months longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient, due to the lack of suitable organs.
Whilst organs can be donated regardless of race, organ transplants are more likely to be successful and last longer if they have a closer genetic match.
The government launched the major public consultation to gather views on plans to introduce a new opt-out system, where there will be presumed consent for organ donation – as opposed to the current system where people need to actively opt-in to donate their organs.
Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said:
“The sad reality is that not enough black people are coming forward and registering as donors – in fact, this equates to only 0.9% of people on the organ donor register.
“This is a difficult issue to talk about, but it has big implications for the BAME community – not least because the need for a better organ donation system could have the greatest impact on people from black and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.
“Our consultation, which runs until next month, is an historic chance to shape a decision that could save hundreds of lives in the years ahead.”
Orin Lewis, co-founder of the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust said:
The opt-out consultation allows the important conversation surrounding organ donation to continue on a large scale. It provides a platform for the views and the opinions of the diverse British public to be heard.
It’s vital for all leaders within the BAME community to participate in the national conversation re organ donation.
It’s also important the African Caribbean community living in the UK, join the conversation by completing the online consultation, regardless of their views on the new proposed change in the law.”
The Government is asking for comments on the defining issues of the new system:
- How much say should families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs?
- What exemptions to ‘opt-out’ are needed, and what safeguards will be necessary?
- How might a new system affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith?
Currently, 25 percent of black people have told their family they want to be an organ donor compared with almost half of all adults in England. Less than six percent of deceased donors are black.
Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that in the past year around 1,200 families in the UK decided not to allow organ donation because they were unsure, or did not know whether their relatives would have wanted to donate an organ or not. As a result, every day three patients die needing a new organ.
To have a say on the future of organ donation visit engage.dh.gov.uk/organdonation.