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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Would-be organ donors stay silent
Transplant surgery
There is a shortage of organs for transplant
A BBC survey suggests that the overwhelming majority of people back organ donation, but 51% have never discussed the issue with loved ones.

The survey of over 2,000 people was carried out as part of the DoNation season, which aims to raise awareness of issues around organ donation.

Just under half of those who had not joined the NHS Organ Donor Register said they had not thought about it.

A further 30% said they wanted to, but had "not got around to it".

Six out of 10 people believe there should be a change in the law to an opt-out system to mean that everyone would automatically be considered a potential donor unless they have specifically registered that they do not wish to be.

'Tempting fate' fears

The survey also found most people vastly over-estimated the number of organ transplants carried out last year.

We hope that it will help raise awareness of the benefits of transplantation
Chris Rudge, Medical Director of UK Transplant

In fact, only 2,724 heart, lung, kidney, pancreas or liver transplants were carried out. There are currently 7,708 people waiting for an organ transplant.

One in 10 of those questioned said they would not wish to donate their organs, but many had misconceptions over what donation involves.

  • Over half said that they didn't want their body to be experimented on after their death
  • A third believed they were too old or unwell for their organs to be of any use
  • A fifth were concerned doctors would not fight as hard to save them if they knew they wished to be a donor, or that they might not really be dead when organs were removed
  • A quarter felt it might "tempt fate" if they joined the register

Organ transplant experts said all of these concerns were incorrect.

In terms of their own organs, 54% said they were most concerned about their heart. The lungs were the main worry for one in six, over half of whom were smokers.

The survey also highlighted people's lack of awareness about the human body.

A quarter didn't know that the kidneys filter waste products out of blood - 3% believed it helped improve a person's sex drive.

Chris Rudge, Medical Director of UK Transplant - responsible for matching and allocating donated organs for transplant, and for maintaining the NHS Organ Donor Register - said: "We are glad the BBC has chosen to draw attention to this very important issue.

"We hope that it will help raise awareness of the benefits of transplantation and encourage people to make an informed decision about joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.

"The BBC survey confirms the widespread support that exists for organ donation in the UK and emphasises the vital need for people to talk about their own wishes with those close to them."

A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: "What is worrying is that there is clearly still a lot of misunderstanding about organ donation. "The survey revealed that a fifth of respondents thought that if they joined the register, doctors would not fight as hard to save their life. This is totally incorrect."

Your comments

I am register to donate bone marrow, blood and when the time comes, organs. How can I expect someone to help my son if God forbid something awful happened to him, if I am not prepared to do the same for others. I won't need them once I'm gone and I've never liked waste!
Angela, Welwyn Garden City, Herts

I am firmly against an opt-out system
Nick, Oxford
I am firmly against an opt-out system. It says that someone else has a right to parts of your body when you die, and I believe that is wrong. It is up to the individual to decide what happens to their body both during their life and after their death.
Nick, Oxford

I remember several years ago applying for a Boots advantage card, and the form having a nice box to tick, to be automatically added to the Organ Donation Register. I thought this was a great idea, why don't other companies follow suit? Yet having just thought about it, I don't think I've ever brought this issue up with my parents. Who wants their 21 year old son talking about what should happen if they die? I imagine they would try to change to conversation immediately - sad really, we all have to go at some stage and a Bus might have my number on it tomorrow.
Laurence Hellyer, Guildford

I would not be a donor, or support an opt out system. Such a system would be an abuse of power, and an incentive to criminal elements to murder and kill when the market appears.
Don, Chelmsford

I'm on the donor register and carry a donor card. However, my family are against donation simply because they call it 'unnatural', and I'm told that even if you are registered that relatives still have to consent to donation. I'm now married and my spouse will consent, but I'm worried that my parents could still lead to my organs being wasted - or a nasty scene over my deathbed for my spouse.
HT, London, UK

What about also having a system for mobile phones rather like the ICE one for the In Case of Emergency contact? You could indicate your willingness to donate by adding a specific phrase e.g Willing Donor
Lorraine, Milton Keynes, Bucks

I would be happy for my organs to be used. I'm not registered, however, I would support an opt out system.
Howard Warner, Isle of South Uist

I do not wish for any of my organs to be used after my death or before. I also do not ever wish to be given anyone else's organs. I have several reasons for this, and I am not an extremist religious person by any means. One of my intense dislikes is that cells from my body parts may be used in laboratories in the creation of life which will then be used/abused for furthering experiments. This is a sick practice, and all the reassurances on Earth that it will not happen will not convince me.
Gerrard Byrne, Wiltshire, UK

I am an organ donor, and always will be. But I wouldn't agree with an opt-out system. Some religions forbid this (depending on your interpretation). But if people do refuse to donate, then they should be exempt from accepting a donation, unless there are special circumstances (a known transferable disease, for example). People generally don't register, because of ignorance or laziness. The ignorant we can educate, but I'm not sure what to do about the lazy ones.
Ian, London

After my uncle succumbed to cancer, it was a very positive thing to hear that his donated corneas had helped restore the sight of two women. It also made it much easier to properly discuss my wishes with my family; being able to help someone after death is a uniquely human attribute.
Tom, Oxford UK

My aunt had to have a liver transplant and very nearly died because of the wait. She's made an amazing recovery and is still living life to the full some 15 years later. I've been a registered organ donor since I was 16 and firmly believe in the opt-out system. It's the only way people can be made to understand the benefits of organ donation and can then make an informed decision about their wishes.
Victoria, Farnham, UK

I'm on the organ donor register, and find it crazy that my next of kin could still overrule my wishes in the event of my death
Sarah, UK
I'm on the organ donor register, and find it crazy that my next of kin could still overrule my wishes in the event of my death - and ignore my express wishes. At a time of immense stress, it seems unfair that loved ones have to make such decisions. I would fully back an 'opt-out' approach, as I think people probably feel more strongly if they are against it, and it seems a terrible shame that valuable organs are lost, merely because of apathy on the part of would-be donors.
Sarah, UK

I think that an opt-out system is not a bad idea. If that is not used, then it would be easy to improve the system, simply by ensuring that people who do register to be donors are allowed to be donors. At the moment, even if someone wants to be a donor and then dies, their family can over-ride their wishes and refuse for them to be donors. It seems to me that the person's wishes should be honoured instead of their families.
Debbie, UK

I have carried the same organ donor card since August 1986 and I am on the NHS organ donor register. Back in 1986 the card allowed you to stipulate what organs could be taken, with a section that states "take them all". When you are gone you are gone. Once my time is up, let someone else make use of these organs which have given me such a great life. I have discussed it with my wife and she knows it is important to me.
David, Cheshire

I have an organ donor card, my only concern is that medical staff will miss it should anything happen to me, maybe there should be a universal database where people can sign up for donating their organs.
Steph, Herts

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