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Jewish Doctors call for urgent conversation around organ donation copy: News
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A new campaign and video is launched to raise awareness of the change in the organ donation law and to encourage Jews to discuss their wishes

  • Almost half of Jews (45%) say they have signed up to the organ donor register

  • 51% of Jews have had a conversation with their next of kin around organ donation. 1 in 5 (22%) admitted to not thinking about it

  • 6 in 10 (59%) say they think about their mortality more since the pandemic

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

6 September 2021 – A new campaign is being launched by the Jewish Organ Donor Association (JODA UK) to urge people to talk to their families about organ donation to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by an organ transplant. It comes at a time when families may not have been able to come together for a meal for some time due to Covid restrictions and after Rosh Hashanah 2020 festivities were heavily restricted due to government limits on households mixing.

The new campaign centres around common Friday night dinner debates, with the first video featuring a group of Jewish friends in their mid-20s around a Yom Tov table discussing the issues that matter to them including whether they know their parents’ wishes around organ donation.

To inform the conversation, JODA UK took a snapshot community opinion via a survey and found that one in five (20%) mistakenly believe that a Jew cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if they have a tattoo or if they had donated organs (22%).

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 an organ donor.

Encouragingly, the 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% of people 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.

Even though the law around organ donation has now changed, it is important to know that people still have a choice and families will still be consulted if organ donation becomes a possibility. If people decide to sign up, there is also the option of completing a personal statement which takes a person's Jewish beliefs into account. 86% of Jews surveyed were unaware of this opportunity.

The faith statement has been agreed between the Office of the Chief Rabbi (OCR), Board of Deputies, and NHS Blood and Transplant to provide reassurance to Jewish people who want to be organ or tissue donors about the processes that can be put in place to ensure that donation proceeds in line with their faith.

"We know that many families have not been able to get together for a long time, so launching a campaign to talk about organ donation at a time when families will be having a Friday night dinner or Yom Tov meal together will hopefully be well received,” said Dr Marc Wittenberg, JODA UK medical director.

"From our research, we can see that some Jews mistakenly believe that a Jew cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if they are tattooed and organ donation is prohibited as the body needs to be buried whole. Both are untrue. By debunking these myths and showing Jewish families and young people having important conversations about their wishes, we hope to raise awareness of the positive Jewish attitude to organ donation, as well as a new organ donation faith declaration developed by the OCR. It’s likely that the Friday night dinner table will be filled with lively conversation this year and we hope people take the opportunity to leave their family certain over organ donation."

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 welcome the launch of a campaign to encourage family discussions around Jewish New Year. 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 really appreciate the positive conversation taking place around organ donation, and on behalf of the NHS Blood and Transplant team, we wish the Jewish community a Shana Tova and a sweet and healthy new year."


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