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Jewish Doctors call for urgent conversation around organ donation copy copy: News
Organ Donation Week 2022 image.jpg


  • 86% of Jews are unaware of new organ donation personal faith statement which takes religious beliefs into account

  • 6 in 10 (59%) think about their mortality more since Covid-19 pandemic

  • JODA UK announces new funding from NHS Blood and Transplant to support development of new educational programme 

Monday 19th September 2022: Ahead of Jewish New Year and the start of Organ Donation Week, the Jewish Organ Donor Association (JODA UK) is urging people to talk to their families about organ donation and raising awareness of the new faith declaration to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by an organ transplant.

Since the organ donation law came into effect on 20th May 2020, people in England are considered as willing to donate, unless they have opted out, are in one of the excluded groups, or have told their family they don’t want to donate. Similar legislation was introduced in Wales in 2015, and Scotland also switched to an opt-out system in March this year. Prior to the law change, around 80% of people in England said that they supported organ donation in principle, but only 38% had actually recorded their decision to donate. This compares to 45% of Jews who are registered as organ donors.

Even though the law around organ donation has changed, it is important to know that people still have a choice and families will always be consulted if organ donation becomes a possibility. In fact, the Office of the Chief Rabbi (OCR) has worked closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and the Human Tissue Authority to deliver an essential accommodation within the opt-out system, which allows a person to declare on the Organ Donor Register that their decision for donation is subject to their family receiving guidance from their chosen religious authority. Unfortunately, most Jews surveyed (86%) are unaware of the new faith statement option. 

Encouragingly, JODA UK research reveals just over half (51%) of Jews have had a discussion with their next of kin about their wishes regarding organ donation, though 22% said they had not got around to it or thought about it. However, it seems that the pandemic is prompting people to think about life and death issues, with 59% of respondents saying they have thought about their mortality more since Covid hit. 

"Over the last few years we know that many families have not been able to get together as regularly as they would have liked, so launching a campaign to talk about organ donation at a time when families will be having a meal or breaking the fast together will hopefully be well received,” said Dr Marc Wittenberg, JODA UK Medical Director and Consultant Anesthetist at the Royal Free Trust.

"From our research, we can see that Jews are highly supportive of organ donation but there are some perceived barriers to signing up to the organ donation register. We can see that a minority of Jews still mistakenly believe myths that a Jew cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if the body is not whole, or that burial cannot be delayed. Both are untrue. By debunking these beliefs and bringing attention to the new faith declaration developed by the OCR which helps inform the family of a person’s wishes, we hope that the Yom Tov dinner table will be filled with lively conversation this year where people can leave their family certain over organ donation."

The team at JODA UK is also proud to announce new funding from NHSBT to develop a non-formal educational programme targeting young Jewish people. JODA  is a non-profit, independent, cross-communal organisation of senior Jewish clinicians and marketing experts which promotes organ donation within a Jewish framework. It is one of 39 community projects, and the only Jewish organisation in England to have received a share of around £500,000 funding as part of the Government’s commitment to tackle health inequalities in Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. 

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation for NHSBT, adds: “We are very grateful to JODA UK for its support of organ donation and we are excited about the development of a new educational programme for young people within the Jewish community.

“With organ donation and transplantation both heavily impacted by the pandemic, it is more important than ever for people to have the conversation and let their families know what they want to happen in the event of their death. Register your organ donation decision including the faith declaration on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and tell your family the choice you have made. If the time comes, we know families find the organ donation conversation much easier if they already know what their relative wanted. 

“We  appreciate the positive conversation taking place around organ donation within the community, and on behalf of the NHSBT team, we wish everyone a Shana Tova and a sweet and healthy new year."


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