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Rehman Chishti MP: Remember those who donate organs

Chishti Rehman 2013Rehman Chishti is Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham.

The news this week that the number of people donating organs has risen 50% over the past five years is very welcome news indeed. However, there are still sadly more than 10,000 still waiting for a transplant.  More still needs to be done to encourage people to become organ donors.  One way to do so would be to give greater recognition to those who make this sacrifice for others.

Transplants are one of our greatest medical advancements, providing the opportunity to save lives and greatly improve the quality of life for patients. Last year, I saw for myself the importance of organ transplants when the British Transplant Games were held in my constituency for the first time in its 30 year history.

I was greatly inspired by this event, which encourages transplant patients to regain their fitness and raises awareness of the importance of organ donations.  In Gillingham, more than 500 participants competed, and I am certain that even more will join in when the Games return to Sheffield later this year.

Organ donation and transplantation affect thousands of people and their families every year.  In 2012 over 4000 people received a transplant; however the number of people on the transplant waiting list exceeds the organs available.  According to figures from the Department of Health, 535 people on the waiting list died last year before a suitable donor was found.

There has been some excellent work in recent years to encourage people to sign up to the organ donor register. For example, there is an annual organ donation week encouraging people to register.  ITV’s From the Heart Campaign and the Daily Mail’s Donor Organ campaign have helped raise awareness and, since Christmas, nearly 70,000 people have registered – double the usual number.  At the end of last year 31% of the population were on the register. However, the rate at which people are signing up has been falling.

More can be done to make people aware of the benefits to others of becoming an organ donor.  One clear message is the number of people one ,donor can help. Did you know that one organ donor can help up to seven different people? Last year there were 1164 donations helping to save more than 3000 lives.  Whilst the majority provided two or three, 4% were able to donate seven organs.

In fact, with medical advances, it is now potentially possible to donate up to nine organs.  This is a strong message which resonates with people. Those making this sacrifice to assist others deserve to be celebrated and remembered. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are national gatherings and remembrance services for the families for donor families.  I would also like to see such a national day in England as well.

A donor remembrance day can provide a comfort for those who have lost loved ones and inspire others to become donors Organ donations help thousands of people every year, but it could be more. Greater awareness and recognition would give this issue the attention it deserves.  


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