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GPs asked to discuss faith with patients signing up to the organ donor register

GPs talking to patients about organ donation should give them the option to sign up to the register under special conditions relating to their culture or religious faith.

NHS Blood and Transplant has announced that a new option will be added to the NHS Organ Donor Register to give reassurance about how organ donation can go ahead in line with a person’s faith or beliefs.

People signing up to the NHS Organ Donor Register will now be asked an optional question about whether or not they want their faith or beliefs to be discussed with their family, or anyone else they consider appropriate, such as a religious leader.

Research carried out on behalf of NHS Blood and Transplant earlier this year showed that a major barrier to organ donation among black and Asian people was the belief – among 27% of respondents – that it was against a their culture or religion.

Last year, only 42% of black and Asian families agreed to donate their relative’s organs, compared with 66% of families from the overall population.

At the same time, more than a third of patients waiting for a kidney transplant are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and often their best chance of a match will come from someone of the same ethnic background.

The Government ran an opt-out organ donation consultation in England from December 2017 to March 2018 from which the issue of faith and belief was raised.

In its official response document to the consultation, the Government said changes would involve asking people about their faith when they were considering organ donation.

The Government wants to move to an opt-out organ donation system, as has been put in place in Wales, but this requires new legislation to go through the parliamentary approval process.

According to GMC guidance, GPs are encouraged to initiate discussions with dying patients and their relatives about organ donation.