There are usually around 450 people on the liver transplant waiting list in the UK at any one time. Sadly, around one in ten people die or have to be removed from the waiting list before they receive a transplant because their condition has deteriorated.
Opt-out or opt-in?
The law around organ donation in England has moved to an opt-out system to allow more people to save more lives.
All adults in England will be considered as willing to donate when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate, are in one of the excluded groups or have told their family they don’t wish to donate. Adults covered by the change will still have a choice whether they want to be an organ donor and their families will still be involved before organ donation goes ahead.
This brings England in line with Wales, which already has an opt-out organ donation system. Scotland will change to an opt-out system in March 2021. In Northern Ireland the opt-in system remains in place.
However, it’s still important that you not only register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register but share it with your family or closest friends too, to give them the certainty to support your decision at a difficult time. You could save or transform up to nine people’s lives by donating your organs when you die and help even more people by donating tissue, such as your heart valves, skin, bone, tendons and corneas.
"The number of organs available and the number of transplants undertaken dropped quite dramatically"
Professor Doug Thorburn, Medical Advisor to the British Liver Trust and Consultant Hepatologist at the Royal Free Hospital, said: “With the shift to an opt-out organ donation system, we would have expected to see a slight rise in the number of organs available for transplantation this year. However, with the global Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has not been straightforward. We know that in March and April this year, the number of organs available and the number of transplants undertaken dropped quite dramatically.
“This was due to a number of factors, such as a reduction in the number of deaths that permitted organ donation during lockdown, and the fact that only selected patients with time critical illnesses necessitating ‘urgent’ or ‘super urgent’ transplantation proceeded to transplantation at that time.
"We owe an enormous debt to all organ donors"
“However, with the lower infection rate and easing of lockdown measures, more recently we’ve seen the number of available livers and the number of transplantations return to normal. A liver transplant really can be the gift of life and we owe an enormous debt to all organ donors and their families. I would urge everyone to let their loved ones know their wishes around organ donation.”
Visit organdonation.nhs.uk to register your decision about organ transplantation and find out more.
For Organ Donation Week, we have created a brand new dedication webpage. Honour a Donor is a place to remember and thank your, or your loved one's, organ donors.
We will be sharing our supporters' liver transplant stories on social media throughout the week and into the future. Thank you to everyone who has kindly shared their personal stories with us. We had an amazing response and were overwhelmed with people wanting to get involved. We'll be uploading more stories onto our website over the coming days and weeks.