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Plea to leave no uncertainty on organ donation

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is backing a new NHS campaign to urge families to talk about organ donation following research that less than half of adults in England have had the conversation.

The ‘Leave Them Certain’ campaign encourages people to talk more opening about their last wishes and the impact not having these conversations has on family members left behind.

It follows a change in the law last year in England, which means that all adults are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

However, many don’t realise that families will still be approached before any donation goes ahead. Even though 80 per cent of people are willing to donate their organs, only 39 per cent say they have shared their decision.[1] And while a huge nine in ten families support organ donation if they knew what their loved one wanted, this figure falls to around half when a decision is not known.[2]

Dr Mike Knapton
Dr Mike Knapton

Chair of the CUH Organ Donation Committee and Trust non-executive director, Dr Mike Knapton said:

Talking to your loved ones about your decision to be an organ donor is hugely important. The uncertainty is an added stress for your family at what is already a very difficult time.

Dr Mike Knapton

“We would like to encourage more people to think about whether they’d like to be an organ donor and to let friends or family know so that they can be sure they are making the right decision for you.”

Dr Riaz Kayani
Dr Riaz Kayani

CUH clinical lead for organ donation, Dr Riaz Kayani, added: "Addenbrooke’s is one of the leading transplant centres in the country and are all too familiar with the dilemma faced by families who aren’t sure of a loved one’s last wishes.

Our plea to families is please discuss this important subject in advance, since it can save a lot of heartache – and the lives of others.

Dr Riaz Kayani

As part of the campaign, a new TV advert launched this week featuring the Kakkad family. Shivum’s father Bharat died from a cardiac arrest when he was 63 in May 2019, but the family had never spoken about organ donation. The advert features family footage and memories of Bharat but ends with another memory - when they asked Shivum if his father wanted to be an organ donor and he just didn’t know.

Significantly, Shivum and his family did agree to organ donation, but it was a decision that could have been made easier if they’d had the conversation.

Shivum said:

My father was a very giving person. He did charity work and was a strong believer in the Hindu act of Sewa, of service to god. When the specialist nurse approached us about organ donation, we made our decision. We knew that helping others in need was what my father would have wanted. But I wish we had spoken about it to know for certain and I would urge others to take the opportunity while they still can

Shivum Kakkad

Shivum hopes that by sharing their family’s story, they will encourage more families, particularly from Asian and other ethnic backgrounds, to support and talk about organ donation. The numbers of donors are increasing, but more need to come forward.