Urgent appeal for more black organ donors

Seven West Midlands black people have donated in five years.

New figures show seven black people in the West Midlands in the last five years have donated their organs after they have died, underlining the severe shortage of black organ donors.

In contrast there are 36 black patients in the West Midlands currently waiting for an organ transplant. Although black patients can receive an organ from a white donor, for many patients the best blood and tissue match, and the best outcome from their transplant, will come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed the figures during Black History Month as it urges more black people in the West Midlands to decide they want to be a lifesaving organ donor and tell their families.

In the last five years, seven black people in the West Midlands have donated a kidney as a living donor.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Black patients in desperate need of a transplant to save or drastically improve their lives are depending on people from their community to decide they want to be a lifesaving donor, either after they die or during their lifetime through living donation.

“Organ donation is a very dignified and respectful process. The donor is treated with the greatest care, and our nurses work with families to ensure all their faith and cultural considerations are respected.

“Please make this Black History Month the time you choose to save lives. Tell your loved ones you want to be an organ donor and ask them what they want too.”

Sadly, in the UK last year nineteen black people died while on the transplant waiting list – so black donors are urgently needed to help end the wait.

Black families are less likely to say yes to organ donation when approached in hospitals. Last year, 32 percent agreed to donate a loved one’s organs compared with 70 percent of white families and 40 percent of Asian families.

Black patients are significantly over-represented on the transplant list, accounting for 11 percent of those waiting for an organ compared with 2.5 percent of the whole UK population. They wait the longest for a suitable organ and almost a year longer than white patients for a kidney ), the most commonly transplanted organ.

Black patients are also less likely to receive a transplant from a living donor of the same ethnic background. Last year, only half of black living transplant recipients received an organ from a donor of the same ethnicity compared with two thirds of Asian patients.

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “It cannot be right that every year, hundreds of black people spend far longer than they should waiting for a transplant – with many tragically dying during this time.

“This Black History Month, I am calling on those from the black community to consider whether donation is appropriate for them or their families. This is a real chance at saving a person’s life and an incredible gift to a member of your community.”

In 2020, the law around organ donation will be changing in both England and Scotland. Both countries will be introducing an opt out system for organ donation, just as Wales did in December 2015 and Jersey did in July this year.

While being an organ donor is down to individual choice, it is concerning that the majority of people who have recorded an opt out decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and this could further impact patients in need of organ transplants from their communities.

Some people are concerned about the process itself, or whether their faith or beliefs will be respected, so NHS Blood and Transplant is encouraging people to find out more about organ donation and about the position of their faith or belief system.

Videos answering some of the common myths and misconceptions about organ donation can be viewed at the NHS Organ Donation You Tube playlist channel

Find out more and register your decision by visiting NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and share your decision with your family.