Taking place on the 2nd-8th September 2019, the purpose of Organ Donation Week is to raise awareness of how important organ donation is. It also aims to encourage those on the donor list to share their decision with those close to them and to give praise to those who give a part of themselves to save the lives of others.

Organ donation is a selfless act with a big impact. Another aim of the week is to explore the life-changing impact donations have on transplant recipients, as numbers taken from the NHS state that one donor can save up to seven lives.

Change in the law

Currently in the UK, organ donation operates under a voluntary ‘opt-in’ scheme, in which only registered organ donors are considered upon death. However, this is set to change next year under a new law known as ‘Max and Keira’s Law’.

Max and Keira’s stories

The donor, Keira Ball, was tragically involved in a car accident at age nine from which she couldn’t be saved. Keira’s father Joe was then approached by the organ donor consent team, and he agreed for Keira’s organs to be used to help others. Keira’s donation saved the lives of four other people.

Among the four was Max Johnson, also age nine at the time, who received her heart. Before the transplant, Max was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, a crippling disease which effects the heart muscle. Kept alive using a mechanical pump, Max, his family and friends were told to prepare for the worst. However, following a life-changing donation from Keira and a successful operation, Max is now eleven and his heart is working well. Under this new law, those who are eligible will be considered as organ donors upon death unless they opted out while alive. Figures taken from the NHS cite over 6,000 people waiting for a transplant in the UK. However, many of those on that list will die while waiting for a suitable organ. [1]

Importance of discussions with those close to you

The decision to become an organ donor is yours alone, and while alive morally and legally no one can make this decision for you. However, it is still vital to keep your family informed of your decision. Even under the new ‘presumed consent’ law, it will still be possible for the family to prevent a donation. This is why it is so important to discuss your wishes with your relatives. If you’ve registered to become an organ donor but haven’t yet told those close to you, please take the time as soon as possible to have this important conversation. The below video demonstrates how if we all thought more like children, we’d save more lives.

How to talk about organ donation with children

Perhaps still viewed as a ‘taboo’ topic, organ donation is something seldom openly discussed with children. Members of the public however think this needs to change. Among those who advocate the education of children are the younger generation themselves. Max Johnson, mentioned above, had this to say on educating his peers on organ donation:

“I want everyone to talk to each other – if a member of your family died, would you let their organs go to waste and decay or save a few people’s lives?” [2]

Orgamites

Helping towards this goal are the non-profit organisation, ‘The Orgamites’, whose sole aim is to raise acceptance and public awareness of organ donation. Depicted as cartoon adaptations of various human organs, such as the heart below, The Orgamite characters are aimed at helping children understand organ donation in an engaging and friendly way. The organisation also specialise in providing resources and aid to parents and schools trying to educate their children on this topic. Among these resources include a useful downloadable guide on how to discuss organ donation with children.

A study undertaken by the NHS sheds light on the vast number of people within the UK who desperately need an organ donation, with almost 49,000 in the last 10 years waiting for a transplant, with over 6,000 dying before they receive it. However, the number of parents with children under the age of 18 who have discussed the topic of organ donation with them is an astounding 15%. [3] How can you know the wishes of those closest to you, if these important conversations aren’t had?

Those under the age of 16 in the UK need parental consent, which is why starting these conversations early is so important. Doing so can help reduce the stigma around such conversations and ensure no one is left in the dark about what those closest to them want.

For more information on Organ Donation Week and how you can get involved, here are a few useful links:

The Orgamites

NHSBT

Live Life Give Life


References

[1] https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/helping-you-to-decide/about-organ-donation/statistics-about-organ-donation/

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47359682

[3] http://orgamites.com/wp-content/themes/orgamites/pdfs/Orgamites_Infographics.pdf