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NHS launches TV advert urging families to talk about organ donation

NHS Organ donation

By Laura Parnaby, PA

The NHS has launched an advert showing a family’s regrets over not speaking about organ donation, to help spark conversations about the topic and save lives.

Although 80% of people are willing to donate their organs, only 39% say they have spoken about their decision, meaning their wishes may not be fulfilled, according to an NHS survey of 1,800 people from June.

Following a change in the law last year, all adults are now seen as willing to donate their organs unless they opt out or are in one of the excluded groups, but families must also give confirmation.

Some nine in 10 people said they would support organ donation if they knew what their loved one wanted, but this figure falls to 51% when a decision is not known, according to NHS data on organ donation and transplant activity in the UK last year.

An advert featuring Shivum Kakkad, who said he regrets not speaking with his father about his final wishes before he died, is marking the launch of the Leave Them Certain campaign.

It features footage of family memories, before showing Shivum alone in a hospital corridor unable to say whether his father Bharat wanted to donate his organs, after he passed away from a heart attack aged 63.

Mr Kakkad said they decided to donate his father’s kidneys, which were given to a woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s, because as a Hindu who did charity work, “we knew that helping others in need was what my father would have wanted” – but he wishes he “knew for certain”.

Lisa Turner, whose mother Pauline Thorpe became an organ donor just before her 70th birthday, has also urged families to talk about the topic.

Ms Turner said if her mother had not told the family she had opted in to the NHS Organ Donor Register before she died, four people’s lives may not have been saved after they received her lung, kidney and liver donations.

She said: “It was the one last thing we could do for her and felt like we were fulfilling what she wanted… I can’t express how important it is to talk about it.”

The biggest barrier to talking about organ donation is that it has never comes up in conversation, with 34% of people stating this as their reason, according to the NHS survey.

Some 27% also said they are worried broaching the topic could upset their family or make them feel uncomfortable, and 24% said they don’t feel like they need to tell anyone their decision.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said that having the conversation will not only “provide certainty to families” but “ultimately help to save lives”.

The NHS advises bringing up organ donation at a time when relatives are not too distracted, and in a comfortable environment.

Asking relatives how they would feel about donating an organ, rather than opening with your own opinion, talking about faith if they are religious, and acknowledging the sensitivity of the subject are also recommended steps.

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