This month advises on organ and tissue transplants
Tissue and organ donation has been in the news a lot recently. Asian people are three to four times more likely to need a kidney transplant than the rest of the UK population, but less likely to give consent to donate organs.
Organ and tissue donation is vital for helping people whose own organs and tissue have been damaged or stopped working. Healthy organs are donated by one person and used to replace faulty ones in another person through surgery. Kidney transplants are most commonly carried out, but heart transplants can even be performed on new born babies.
The donated organs and tissues need to match the blood and tissue type of the person receiving them. This is so the person who is gaining the organ accepts it as a new part of their body and doesn’t reject it. The NHS wants to encourage more people from Asian backgrounds to sign up to the register, as it is more likely that people from the same ethnic background will have similar blood and tissue types. Currently only one per cent of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register are of Asian ethnic origin, but 14 per cent of people on the waiting list for kidney transplants are Asian.
One study suggests that Asian people may not sign up to donate organs because they believe there are religious reasons that stop them. As a result of this, the NHS blood and transplant service has worked with all of the major religions within the UK, including Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism, to encourage people to donate their organs and help save lives.
It is very easy to sign up to be an organ donor. You can register whilst you are fit and well and can choose which organs and tissue to donate. Donors can also decide whether they want to donate whilst they’re alive, giving blood, bone marrow and in some cases, kidneys, or whether they want to donate their organs once they have died.
You can register on the NHS Organ Donor Register on their website or by calling 0300 123 23 23. It is also possible to sign up to be a donor when registering for a driving license, if you have a Boots advantage card or using one of the leaflets you might find in libraries, hospitals and at your doctors surgery.
For more information on organ donation, please check the NHS Blood and Transplant website www.uktransplant.org.uk. The site also has leaflets and information in Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu and Bengali.