The family of a “kind and loving” little boy who became an organ donor after he died have implored people from BAME backgrounds to back organ donation.
The appeal from the family of Aari Patel comes as it emerged that an increasing number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are dying while waiting for a new organ.
A new report from NHS Blood and Transplant sets out how many BAME groups are “poorly represented” on the organ donor register relative to the current British population.
People from BAME backgrounds make up 11% of the UK population yet the 35% of people waiting for a kidney transplant are from these communities.
Organ and tissue types need to be closely matched between organ donors and recipients, and blood and tissue types differ across ethnic groups.
The report highlights how only 7% of deceased organ donors in the UK are from minority ethnic groups.
And the number of living donors from black and Asian communities has decreased.
NHSBT said that 21% of people who died on the waiting list last year were from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background compared with 15% a decade ago.
The parents of Aari Patel have backed a new campaign calling on more families from BAME communities to support organ donation.
Aari died in 2016 when he was three, following an accident at home.
His parents Jay and Sina asked at the hospital whether their son could be an organ donor, and his organs saved the lives of two children - a boy and a girl - in dire need of a transplant.
“If Aari couldn’t be helped any further, Sina and I felt strongly that we wanted Aari to help others. We did not want another family to suffer losing their child or loved one,” said Mr Patel, from Croydon, south London.
Mr Patel added: “Aari was our little hero. He had a smile that would melt any heart. He genuinely was a kind hearted and generous little man.
“He is and will always remain one of the kindest and loving little boys we have ever known.
“As parents we are proud of Aari, we never tire of talking about him and there is a star in the sky that will always remain our brightest star.
“I am convinced that of all the amazing traits that Aari had - such as kindness, loving heart and caring nature - that these with his organs live on with those recipients, so in heart and soul he continues to live on.”
He continued: “Too many people say no to donation because they think their faith prevents it.
“There are myths and misunderstandings. We must talk more about the subject with those we love, family and friends, young and old.
“If more people in our communities supported organ donation, more lives in our communities would be saved.”
The NHSBT report shows that the number of BAME deceased donors has increased, but numbers are still small - there were only 114 BAME organ donors in 2017/18.
Commenting on the new campaign encouraging more people from BAME backgrounds to join the register, Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Our project will start with a community investment scheme to enable local groups to deliver this vital work.
“For now, I would ask on behalf of everyone who has received a transplant, and everyone who is waiting for the life-changing news that an organ has been found - sign up to donate and give the gift of life.”
Anthony Clarkson from NHS Blood and Transplant said: “While it is encouraging that more black, Asian and ethnic minority families are supporting donation, making more lifesaving transplants possible, change is not happening fast enough and too many lives are being lost.
“Although many black, Asian and ethnic minority patients are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, others may die if there is no donor from their own community.
“We are asking more people from these communities to talk about organ donation and share their donation decision with their families.
“Words save lives.”