London Assembly publishes survey on BAME community's attitude towards organ donation

Tuesday 19th March 2019 15:07 EDT

According to the NHS, 62% of Londoners waiting for an organ transplant are either Black or Asian. Moreover many people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are more likely to develop conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes which means they’re more likely to need an organ transplant.

On Monday, the London Assembly Health Committee published a survey looking at attitudes towards organ donation within the BAME community. This special event featured musical and poetic performances as well as touching stories from living donors, donor recipients and families of deceased donors.

Of BAME Londoners surveyed, it found that 42% are not willing to donate with many citing cultural or religious reasons, 1% said they are on the organ donor register and Bangladeshis and Black Africans are the least unwilling demographic to donate.

Moreover, patients from ethnic minority backgrounds can often wait much longer than white patients to receive vital organ transplants, pitting them against unfair survival odds. National data for 2017-18 illustrates those odds. 

A number of studies have also shown that there is a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes and kidney disease amongst the UK’s BAME communities. It is commonly acknowledged that diabetes often leads to organ failure. 

Disparity in waiting times

The disparity in waiting times is a direct consequence of a disproportionately high need for organ transplants within ethnic minority communities and disproportionately low consent rates to donation.

The imbalance is a problem because, for a successful transplant, blood and tissue types need to match; and this match is most likely to happen where the donor and the recipient are from the same ethnic background. 

According to theNHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) there are 1,300 Londoners currently waiting for an organ transplant and 62 per cent of them are Black or Asian. NHSBT further recorded that this is reflected in the demand for kidneys nationally; in 2017/18, the number of people from BAME communities waiting for kidney transplants in the UK was far greater proportionately than their representation in the UK’s population. According to NHSBT, BAME groups made up 35 percent of the waiting list for kidney transplantation despite representing only 11 percent of the UK population. 

In May 2018 Agroni Research conducted a survey of 1000 participants from England’s BAME communities on behalf of NHSBT. The survey showed that only 37 percent of participants said they “definitely would not donate” their organs and 33 percent were opposed or strongly opposed to organ donation. Only 34 per cent of BAME people living in England “supported”or“strongly supported” organ donation. The number of people who said that they would definitely donate some or all of their organs was only 11 per cent. These figures contrast markedly with the picture nationally in which, according to NHSBT, over 80 per cent of the adult population of England stated that they supported organ donation. 

Adults to be considered potential organ donor

However, from Spring 2020 all adults in England will be considered a potential organ donor, unless they choose not to donate. This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system. 

This means that if you have not recorded a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register to opt out of donation, it will be considered that you consent to donate your organs. 

The new law will apply to adults living in England, who die in England. It will not apply to: people who lack mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action, people who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living here voluntarily and anyone under the age of 18.

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