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The gift of life - touching stories of organ donation told as opt-out system law progresses through parliament

PUBLISHED: 07:58 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:45 30 July 2018

An organ donation box arriving at a hospital for a transplant operation. Picture: SENT IN BY NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT

An organ donation box arriving at a hospital for a transplant operation. Picture: SENT IN BY NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT

SENT IN BY NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT

It is a decision which can be the difference between life and death.

And as a new law which will assume people are happy to donate their organs, unless they have stated otherwise, progresses through parliament, those touched by the generous act have shared their stories.

Some 54 people in Norfolk and Suffolk became organ donors over the last year. But there are still 92 people on waiting lists across the two counties.

The prime minister promised last year to “save thousands of lives” by increasing the number of donors and abolishing the need for donor cards, by introducing a opt-out system.

A consultation has already taken place and MPs have backed the bill. It means there would be “presumed consent” that organs can be donated.

But the NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) has urged people to have the conversation with their families about organ donation either way, as relatives may still be able to block any decision made under any new system.

At the moment, even when a person is a registered donor 1,200 families a year refuse to allow donation.

This led to at least 360 missed potential transplants during the 12-week opt-out consultation alone.

Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHSBT said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to the lifesaving power of organ donation. We support any initiative which leads to more organ donors and more lives being saved.”

But she added: “Make sure your family know what you want. If you support organ donation, act today by telling your family you want to donate and join the NHS Organ Donor Register.”

It is not yet clear where families fit in the new system, but MP Geoffrey Robinson, who introduced the bill, told the House of Commons in February “the intention is to give families in that position an effective veto”.

NHSBT maintains family input is “crucial as they can help with important information not found in their relative’s medical records”, such as lifestyle or travel history.

But they recommend talking to relatives regardless of the system in place, to make the process easier and to make sure wishes are upheld.

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