From triple helix - summer 2009 - Organ Donor Campaign [p05]
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Mobilising faith communities
Review by Andrew Fergusson
CMF Head of Communications
In polls, 90% of the public say they support organ donation, but far fewer are actually on the NHS Organ Donor Register - by this July the number was only 27% of those eligible (although up from 20% in the last year). (1) The Organ Donation Task Force concluded in 2008 against a national policy of presumed consent, that people should have to 'opt out' rather than 'opt in', thus agreeing with the recommendation CMF made as we endorsed organ donation when it is an altruistic free gift in a context of fully informed consent. (2)
The Department of Health has redoubled efforts to increase donation rates, and there are to be 197 new clinical leads and 197 new 'lay champions', one for every acute trust, as well as 63 new transplant co-ordinators. (It is this approach utilising better communication and co-ordination on the ground, rather than their presumed consent policy, which probably accounts for the higher transplant rates in Spain.)
'Black and minority ethnic' (BME) communities in the UK have a higher prevalence of the diseases requiring transplantation, but also a much lower proportion of their members on the register, meaning that appropriate tissue matches are less likely. The Organ Donor Campaign (ODC) has come into existence largely to fill this BME gap. (3) It seeks to reach BME groups through their respective faith communities, and began at the grassroots in the north west, after several highly motivated young people separately lost close friends who died while on a transplant waiting list, and was launched with a fanfare in Parliament in January.
CMF has been in contact since the beginning, and is advising about reaching the Christian community. At a meeting in Manchester this July, CMF along with senior denominational figures took part in a workshop to explore these issues. Other faith-specific workshops will involve the five other major religions in the UK. Working with the Department of Health, the ODC have already trained 60 Manchester students to go out across the north west to raise awareness (without any hard sell) of the gap between supporting the concept of donation and actually going onto the register. Their slogan is 'Have you talked about it?'
The Manchester students mainly come from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, and their campaign further challenges Christians to consider for themselves whether they should register. CMF acknowledges some ethical controversies but believes Christians should support organ donation. (4)