Organ donation week: what we all need to know

Organ donation week is now on and runs until Sunday 8 September and a change in the law will affect us all

One organ donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people.

But sadly every day in the UK, three people die in need of an organ.

Organ donation week is now on and runs until Sunday 8 September, and there’s something important everyone should know: in spring 2020, the law on organ donation is changing. All adults will be automatically opted-in as a donor, unless they state otherwise.

UNISON NHS Blood and Transplant Chair Bev Easton, explains: “The sensitivity with organ donation comes from the fact that, when a loved one is passing away, it’s such an emotional time. Friends and families can become protective.

“If your friends or family don’t know what your preferences are before you die, your organs may not be given to those in need”

“I have a donor card, so it’s clear what my intentions are when I pass away.

“But if I’m someone who hasn’t told my family or made my intentions known, then when I die my family can turn around and say they didn’t know anything about this, and my organs that could have saved several lives will not be shared as I intended”

“The coming change in the law is going to flip the existing system on its head: everyone will be automatically registered to be a donor, and you will have to proactively opt-out.”

This means that if you have not confirmed whether you want to be an organ donor – either by recording a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register or by speaking to friends or family – it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs when you die.

When a donor has passed away, the NHS and Blood and Transplant service conduct tests on all organs. This enables the Transplant teams across the country to quickly and efficiently find the best possible match. For example, if someone needs a new heart, the team will need to find a donor heart that matches the same blood group.

The time that patients spend waiting for a donor can be life-threatening. Every single day that someone lives without a functioning organ, they’re at serious health risk. The change in the law is designed to support life and reduce waiting times.

Easton adds: “The gift of life is very, very special. It doesn’t matter about creed or colour. The workers in the Blood and Transplant service are proud to fulfil this role and support the wider NHS. We do everything from beginning to end, and we don’t ever forget the donor families or recipients along the way.

“It wouldn’t work if we didn’t work collectively together – and that’s what we need to do as a society more: work together to maintain human life.”

Find out more about the upcoming change in the law here.