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Hundreds sign up for organ donations

Over 480 locals have signed up to the UK Organ Donation Register and the Gibraltar Dialysis Patients and Friends Association has stressed the need for more people to opt-in.

Last year an agreement between the Gibraltar Health Authority and Hammersmith Hospital in London was launched meaning that people in vital need could access the UK register and vice versa.

Earlier this year a locally based patient was the first in Gibraltar to receive a kidney transplant under the new agreement, and the Association encourages more people to “make the lifesaving decision” to become a donor.

According to the NHS Blood and Transplant Service, 342 people from Gibraltar signed up for the service in 2018, and in the first three months of 2019, 84 people opted-in.

Next year the UK Government will shake up the opt-in register after statistics revealed that although 80% of people in England supported organ donation only 38% actually opted in.

As from 2020 all adults in England will be considered potential donors unless they choose to opt-out or are excluded, the UK Government recently announced.

The Gibraltar Government does not have any plans to change to an ‘opt-out’ arrangement.

“Local residents will continue to have the option to register at their own accord,” a Gibraltar Government spokesman told the Chronicle.

“The Government, however, continues to monitor developments in the United Kingdom in this regard.”

In the UK more than 6,000 people are currently waiting for an organ and three people die each day while on the waiting list.

“Currently, less than half of families give consent for their loved one’s organs to be donated if they are unaware of their wishes,” the UK Government said in a statement.

“When families know what their loved one would have wanted, they are much more likely to honour these wishes.”

President of the Gibraltar Dialysis Patients and Friends Association, Sunil Chandiramani, received a kidney transplant in 2008, years before the local agreement took hold.

A decade after his transplant, Mr Chandiramani continues to raise awareness of the impact a donor’s decision and how it gave him a new lease of life.

“Being an organ donor really can change so many lives, whether it's the kidney I received, or a heart, lungs, liver etc,” Mr Chandiramani told the Chronicle.

“A donor can give eight to nine people a second chance.”

He added: “For me, not only was it a lifesaving gift, but a gift for me to change my life and make it more than it ever had been before. I have a second chance of life, a better life, and I owe it to the selfless donor to make the most of it. It is so important to sign the donor register and tell your family your wishes. Let's be united and save lives together. Becoming a donor is an amazing selfless thing. Donors leave a legacy not many can claim.”

Mr Chandiramani is in favour of the opt-out system and highlighted that this system still involves the family’s consent.

“The opt-out system operates in Spain and has done so for many years,” Mr Chandiramani said.

“In this connection, Spain has the highest rates of donations in the world. Presumed consent has been operating in Wales since December 2015 and Wales now has the highest organ donation rate in the UK.”

If an opt-out register is be implemented locally Mr Chandiramani said a “cultural shift” is needed whereby organ donation is seen as the “natural thing to do”.

“Dying and death is not something that most people chat about in Gibraltar but bringing about the conversation is one way to address this taboo and transform lives,” Mr Chandiramani said.

“In my opinion, if society could raise this issue in schools from a young age, children would happily talk about it with their friends and family. It would be an everyday conversation which will only make the decision easier.”

“In my view, the change of system would encourage more people to have the conversation about organ donation. I am convinced that the implementation will lead to many more organ donations and lives saved while retaining the involvement of the family in what will remain a remarkably altruistic act of giving.”

Gibraltar residents can opt-in to the UK Organ Donor Register online via: www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

It is important to make your wishes known to family members so they can support you in making the gift of life after death.