Demand for donated organs hugely exceeds supply. Comparatively few people die in the circumstances required for a successful organ transplant, and welcome advances in life-saving medical care exacerbate the shortfall. A recent UK survey revealed that, while 90 per cent of the population support organ donation in principle, only 22 per cent are on the organ donor register.
While evidence is still anecdotal as to why more people don't donate, the main reason appears to be the fear that, in a life-saving situation, donors may not receive the same medical attention as non-donors from doctors anxious to harvest healthy organs. This fear is ungrounded. A doctor's first duty is to the patient in his or her care. If, despite all efforts, a patient dies, it is only then that organ donation can be considered. Organ removal is carried out by a different team of doctors and all wounds are stitched and dressed with as much care as if the patient were living.
If you have decided to be a donor, it is vital to discuss it with your family. Forty per cent of grieving relatives do not agree to donation, and one of the main reasons is that they are not convinced it is what the deceased wanted. A conversation about your wishes is a matter of kindness to those you love. To those waiting for a transplant, it is a matter of life and death.