A leading charity has warned that the UK’s transplant waiting list will never be significantly reduced in size unless public attitudes towards organ donation change, after a survey revealed the majority of people in the UK are prepared to receive an organ but not donate one.
The survey was carried out by company Usurv on behalf of Kidney Research UK – the UK’s leading funder of research into the treatment and prevention of kidney disease – and was intended to gauge popular opinion around organ donation and transplantation.
Results from the poll indicate that while 87 per cent of people in the UK would accept a transplant if told they needed one, only one in three are actually on the organ donor register.
Around 50,000 people in the UK require some form of ongoing treatment for kidney failure, of which aproximately 7,000 are waiting for a kidney transplant – accounting for 90 per cent of all patients on the NHS’s transplant waiting list.
With more than three million people in the UK at risk from kidney disease and an aging population expected to further increase demand for donor organs in years to come, Kidney Research UK fears demand for organs will continue to outstrip supply – placing the lives of more and more kidney patients at risk.
Professor Tim Goodship, Chairman of Kidney Research UK, said: “The on-going shortage of organ donors in the UK is a problem which is acutely felt by renal patients.
“The average wait for a kidney transplant in the UK is 1,000 days. However, patients with complications or rare blood or tissue types can be forced to wait much longer – sometimes decades – and may never receive an organ.
“In light of the results from this survey, we would ask people to give greater consideration to joining the organ donor register. Your organs are of no use to you when you die but could very well save someone else’s life.
“Imagine yourself in a situation where you’ve been told by doctors you have kidney failure and face the prospect of a lifetime on dialysis or even death unless you receive a transplant. Ask yourself, ‘would I accept an organ?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, we would urge you to think about becoming a donor, as this is the very real scenario endured by thousands of kidney patients in the UK every single day.”
Although more than 18 million people have signed the UK’s organ donor register, only around 2,700 kidney transplants are carried out annually.
Even those kidney patients lucky enough to receive a transplant aren’t cured of their condition, as a transplanted kidney only lasts around 10 to 15 years – meaning patients often require multiple transplants in a lifetime and adding to the demand for organs.
Katherine Hall was just eight years old when she was first dignosed with kidney disease. Now 30, Katherine is in need of a third transplant but, due to high levels of antibodies in her blood, has only a seven per cent chance of receiving another organ.
“When my parents were told I had kidney failure it came as a complete surprise,” explained Katherine. “Doctors originally thought I was anaemic and by the time they realised it was actually a renal problem my kidneys had stopped functioning completely.
“Since being diagnosed I’ve had two transplants – one which lasted about ten years and another which failed after just 18 months. The antibodies I’ve been left with make it very difficult for doctors to match me up with another donor.
“If there were more organ donors in the UK I’d have a better chance of getting another kidney, and I’d urge anyone who isn’t already on the organ donor register to sign up. It means so, so much to people like me.”
A third question on the survey focused on people’s views around introducing a system of presumed consent for organ donation, where individuals would have to opt-out of becoming organ donors, rather than signing the register.
When asked whether they would support the introduction of an opt-out approach to organ donation in England, more than half of those polled (54 per cent) said yes, while only 18 per cent said no and 27 per cent were not sure.
“The introduction of an opt-out approach to organ donation is a move that would be welcome by Kidney Research UK and something we have long campaigned for,” added Professor Goodship.
“We also need to improve the infrastructure in our hospitals to better accommodate organ donors and increase funding for research aimed at making kidney transplants work better for longer.
“Finally, it’s imperative that people who are registered donors under the current system discuss their wishes with their loved ones, as the family will always have the final say on whether an individual’s organs are taken after death.”
To view the results of this survey in full, please click here.
Source: Kidney Research UK