Muslim Doctors Association (MDA)

Organ Donation: to opt in or opt out?

I was invited to attend the annual British Islamic Medical Association conference on Saturday 7th December with an inspiring line up of speakers and the opportunity to make great connections in the healthcare world from all around the globe.

I am aware that there have been concerns circulating about the organ donation process, our choices in an opt out system and whether people’s faith and beliefs will be respected. However, as I carried on with my busy routine I had not given it much serious thought ; until today.

The hot topic of the day was the upcoming change in the law around organ donation and discussions around whether the Muslim community should decide to become organ donors.

From Spring 2020 all adults in England will be considred as having agreed to donate their organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

As a Specialist Dietitian I have seen the impact the shortage of organ donors from Asian communities has on Asian patients. I have also read the misinformation circulating in Asian circles leading people to opt out of organ donation without the right facts to help them make an organ donation decision.

One of the myths being circulated is that the government is taking control of our organs. You will still have a choice whether you wish to donate your organs and your family will always be approached to check that this is what you wanted at the time of death. This brought home to me how important it is for our thoughts and decisions to be discussed with our close family. It was reassuring to hear that NHS staff are trained to understand whether there are faith or cultural practices that need to be respected as part of the donation process. What came as a surprise to me was that ethnicity impacts transplant outcome. There are around 1000 Asian patients waiting for a transplant. Rest assured your body will not be mutilated when returned for burial. The surgery is carried out with the same care and precision and dignity as any operation to save someone’s life.

There really is an urgent need for more Asian donors so please take the time to find out about organ donation and make the decision that’s right for you.

As I travelled home I realised I would want my organs to be put to good use when I die. If I could help save or transform a life that would be a good deed. If I’m willing to take an organ should I need one I should be prepared to give one too.

Follow the link to view a short video clip exploring myths of organ donation.

Shamshad is Lead Dietician at the Muslim Doctors Association and a Specialist Dietician working in Newcastle. She also writes on her blog site