Becoming an organ donor is one of the greatest acts of kindness there is, and many people are comforted by the knowledge that they will be helping other people to live on after they themselves have died.
Many donors insert clauses into their Wills expressing their wishes to donate their organs. Such clauses are perfectly valid, along with any wishes a person might have for their funeral service. In practice, however, this is not a suitable way of ensuring that a person’s organs will be donated.
A Will is not normally read until days or weeks after a person has passed away. By contrast, the vital organs become unusable within hours or even minutes following clinical death. By the time the Will comes to be read, it will be far too late and the donor’s desire to help other people will come to nothing.
A recent study published by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) shows that in 2016 the relatives of more than 450 registered organ donors declined permission for their loved ones’ organs to be donated. In most cases the relatives were either unsure of the potential donor’s wishes, if not completely unaware that they were on the Register at all.
In most cases the relatives only have minutes to consent to the donor’s organs being removed for transplant. However when in doubt, most people consider the safest option is to say “no”, only to discover their loved one’s wishes when it is far too late. As a result of this, 457 patients on the active transplant waiting list died in 2016.
Although being on the Organ Donor Register is evidence of you having taken a legal decision to donate, the agreement of your family is still needed for donation to go ahead.
This means that in addition to taking the steps of going on the Organ Donation Register and adding a suitable clause in your Will, you must not forget to make your wishes very clear to your family. It might seem difficult, but this is not a conversation that you should put off if you seriously want to save lives and ensure that your wishes are respected after you die.
For further information on becoming an organ donor, please visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
If you wish to write or review your Will, our specialist solicitors are on hand to give you the advice you need. Please contact us today.