Faith leaders asked to become organ donation ambassadors

Wed 08 June, 2016
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An article published in Transplantation Proceedings (25 May) by a University of Bedfordshire academic highlights the global problem of low rates of organ donation within Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

The article calls on leaders of all faiths to support and encourage conversation about organ donation amongst their communities.

The ‘Role of Religion in Organ Donation—Development of the United Kingdom Faith and Organ Donation Action Plan’  by Professor Gurch Randhawa from the University and Professor James Neuberger from the National Health Service Blood and Transplant focuses on the development of the UK's first Faith and Organ Donation Action Plan.

It highlights the need for increased engagement and conversation both at national and local level.

Currently, BAME communities make up 11% of the UK population, but 30% of the kidney transplant waiting list. At the same time, only 3.5% of registrations among people of known ethnicity, on the Organ Donor Register, are recorded as being from BAME communities. Research shows that a lack of knowledge about their faith's position regarding organ donation is a major barrier for potential donors.

Professor Randhawa, Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University and an international expert on organ donation, public engagement and working with faith communities was part of the team tasked with tackling this problem, in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant.  

The resulting Faith Action Plan has been developed in conjunction with leaders of all faith communities to raise awareness of organ donation as being acceptable within most faiths.  It acknowledges that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work – messages must be tailored to each faith group if they are to succeed in altering their views about organ donation.

Professor Randhawa said: “International evidence shows that faith can be a major barrier to organ donation. In the UK, there is a significant variation in organ donation consent rates, 61% among white families and only 33% among those from a BAME background.

“Faith leaders and NHS Blood and Transplant are now working together to ensure the population can have informed conversations about organ donation.

“This collaborative approach will be useful in other countries where there are low consent rates to organ donation and enable greater understanding of the need for all sections of the population to discuss and consider organ donation.”

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "There are currently around 6,500 people in the UK on the transplant waiting list but there are many more who desperately need a transplant and the truth is that there are simply not enough organs available.

“One organ donor can transform the lives of up to nine people. To save more lives through organ donation we need it to be a subject that we all talk about, in everyday conversation. It is vital people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities agree to organ donation, join the NHS Organ Donor Register and discuss it with their families.

“We are calling on faith leaders from across the country, to help start these conversations amongst their communities. In this way, should the time come, more families will know if their relatives want to donate their organs.”

Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register really is a simple process – it takes two minutes. Visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 today and make to tell your friends and family about your decision

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