People who join the NHS’s UK organ donation register are to be asked if they want their religious beliefs to be considered in the donation process.
The question aims to reassure people that donation can take place in line with their faith or beliefs.
It is hoped the measure can help to boost the low proportion of donors from black and Asian backgrounds.
Research has found religious and cultural beliefs are the main barrier to organ donation in these communities.
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Last year, 42% of black and Asian families agreed to donate their relative’s organs, compared with 66% of families from the overall population.
More than a third of patients waiting for a kidney transplant are from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities and often their best chance of a match will come from someone of the same ethnic background.
A part of the shortage of donors is caused by people from these backgrounds choosing not to donate.
But even if a person does choose to donate by signing up to the register, families have the final say on whether their organs should be used.
‘Someone should be helped by our loss’
Bimla Parmar, a Sikh who lived in Hayes, west London, became a lifesaving organ donor when she died of a brain haemorrhage, aged 68, after collapsing at home.
Her daughter, Gurpreet Parmar, 39, said: “My mum was not on the NHS organ donation register but my siblings and I were fine with it as we believed someone else should be helped by our loss.
“I personally had registered to be a donor a long time ago as I want to help someone else once I am gone.
“Mum was religious and loved by everyone. She was able to donate her lungs, kidneys and liver to four people.
“I hope more of my generation and younger people educate the elders to sign up to donate and explain what their gift can mean to a family seeing their loved one struggle on a daily basis.”
People signing up to the register will now be asked whether or not they want their faith or beliefs to be discussed with their family or anyone else they consider appropriate, such as a faith leader.
NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation that runs the NHS organ donation register, said this would enable nurses to discuss concerns about the process with families, such as whether a burial would be delayed.
Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Inequalities, said: “Organ donation is a priceless gift but thousands of people are still waiting for a transplant and we must do all we can to remove the barriers that prevent people from signing up as a donor.
“This important update will give people the confidence that when they register a decision to donate their organs, their beliefs will always be considered.”
The new question will be added to the register on Thursday.
BBC News is exploring the experience of families of deceased organ donors. Have you ever been asked to make the decision about organ donation on behalf of a family member in hospital and felt unable to agree to donate? Maybe because you did not know their wishes, maybe the organ retrieval operation took too long.
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