The UK government on August 5, 2018 announced new plans to change the law for organ and tissue donation to address the urgent need for organs within Indian-origin communities in the country.
The proposed new system is expected to come into effect in the UK in 2020, as part of a drive to assist the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people awaiting life-saving transplant.
• Under the new system of consent for organ and tissue donation, those who do not want to donate their organs will be able to record their decision on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) Organ Donor Register (ODR).
• The announcement comes as a recent report called on the National Health Service (NHS) to take proactive action to address the high death rate among the Indian-origin people in Britain due to low levels of organ donation within the community.
• The report titled - 'Organ Donation: Breaking Taboos Amongst British BAME Communities', commissioned by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, was aimed at studying the low levels of donation among the BAME communities in the UK.
• The report revealed that the people from the BAME community are seen as generally less inclined to opt for organ donation, largely due to deeply-entrenched cultural and religious beliefs discouraging organ donation.
• However, with respect to India in particular, the report’s findings revealed that India has seen a 10-fold increase in its organ donation consent rates over the last decade as a result of sustained public awareness programmes, policy initiatives and multi-stakeholder collaborations.
The main objective behind the initiative is to make it much easier for people to record and share their decision on organ donation with friends, families and to the NHS staff so that they can be confident their wishes on whether or not they choose to donate will always be respected.
The success of the initiative will, however, depend on the degree and efficacy of engagement with the BAME populations.
The NHS data records revealed that 21 per cent of the people who died on the organ donation waiting list in the UK in 2017 belonged to the BAME community, much higher than 15 per cent a decade ago.
In fact, a substantial number of patients among the total on the transplant list, and who died as a result of long waiting periods, belong mostly to India and Pakistan.
When it comes to organ donation, the NHS records reveal that only 7 per cent of donors in 2017 belonged to the BAME community, with Indians accounting for just 1.9 per cent of the total.
According to NHS, the biggest obstacle to organ donation among the Asian community in the UK continues to be family refusal.
Both India and the UK follow the opt-in system, whereby families' decision to donate organs of their loved one after death is discretionary.