More work needed to tackle "misconceptions" within faith groups as BAME communities face waiting a year longer for live-saving organ transplants
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Organ donation statistics show that there are 5,160 people are currently waiting for a transplant in the UK and that 2,064 people have received a transplant since April 2020.
However, one year after being listed for a kidney transplant, 31 per cent of white and 19 per cent of BAME people have received a transplant. Five years after listing, 75 per cent of
white and 69 per cent of BAME people have been transplanted while seven per cent of white and six per cent of BAME people have died on the list.
In May of last year the law was changed, so it was considered consent was granted for organ donation from deceased people - unless it had been specified otherwise. Further statistics reveal that 56 per cent of the 118,000 opt-outs were Asian.
The NHS said the main reasons for opting out were families not having had the conversation about organ donation and people being unsure as to whether their faith will support organ donation.
Another reason for delay was that for many patients the best match comes from a donor from the same ethnic background as they are more likely to have matching blood groups and tissue types
More needs to be done to raise awareness and debate surrounding organ donation and transplant in all sectors - but especially faith communities. The call comes just after World Religion Day, held on Sunday, where faith leaders come together and people are encouraged to talk to and listen to people from faiths different than their own and to understand the principles of other religions.
He said: "Historically, there has been a misunderstanding and misconception about what is permissable or not."
Within the Muslim faith, he explained that the feeling of faith leaders is that if no other means of treatment is available then donor and transplant procedures are allowed to save a life.
However, he said that messages and campaigns from organisations such as the NHS may not be the best way to engage with faith and minority communities. If the message was to come from faith leaders, it would be more effective, he added.
"More can be done. We need to use people within the faith sector and leaders, as well as role models from all backgrounds to endorse and speak about it There are some faiths who will need that from leaders - not just the NHS."
The selflessness of donating an organ is key to some faiths and their beliefs.
Jatinder Singh-Mehmi is a leader at The Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road. He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Sewa, meaning selfless service, and compassion are key tenets of Sikhi.
"When dying, the soul transmigrates the physical body, to which Sikhs have no attachment. Therefore, if someone can help another person live, through organ donation, this is an example of sewa Sikhs can carry out. Sikhs are taught to help others, seeing the human race as one, irrespective of their race, religion, gender or beliefs. Ultimately, giving even at the end of your life is a true act of selfless service."
Revd Canon Sam Corley, the Rector of Leeds said in recent decades the Christian faith had wrestled with the challenges and possibilities posed by technological and medical advances but had come to view how that extended beyond the physical person.
He added: "Organ donation in particular is a very practical way of 'loving our neighbour' even beyond our death, and so many churches are active in campaigns to increase the number of blood and organ donors among church congregations and to encourage people to discuss their wishes with their next of kin."
However, there is evidence that the campaigns and changing view points were beginning to take effect.
For example, transplants in BAME people increased by 29 per cent over the last five years and figures for 2019/20 show that the number of people from BAME backgrounds who had their lives saved with an organ transplant was the highest on record at 1187.
Coun Rafique added: "There are some really encouraging signs, numbers and figures in recent years. There is a lot of ambition and work by various organisationd and the NHS and that needs to continue."
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