Talk to your family about organ donations
A quick conversation about organ donation can save lives while reducing healthcare costs for everyone.
Speaking at the launch of Organ Donor Week, the health minister Jeanne Atherden urged all residents to take the time to make their wishes known to their loved ones.
“Organ donation is something that many people feel uncomfortable talking about but it's a conversation that everyone should have,” Ms Atherden said. “When a tragedy happens, it's the wrong time to decide what a loved one might want. Have the conversation before the event occurs. Take five minutes and ask the person you love if they want to be an organ donor and also tell someone what your wishes are.”
According to the Ms Atherden, in the “past several years”, six Bermudians have received organs through the New England Organ Bank, but there have been no donors from Bermuda.
Some people have questions about the cost to their family, Ms Atherden said, adding that there is none. Others are concerned it will cause their relatives stress.
Bermuda Organ Donor Association president Jean Van der Merwe added: “Some people are scared that they are going to be left to die, that if they are an organ donor the medical teams are not going to work to save them and this is entirely untrue.”
And Kerry Brislane, the group's treasurer, said often family members have not considered the possibility of their loved one dying, especially if they are a young person.
“They're already trying to come to terms that they are losing their dear child.
“These circumstances are always out of the blue — donation in Bermuda is only in the context of brain death and that's a sudden and catastrophic brain event, whether it be a large stroke or an accident.
“Given some time, you will find that people think that was just the shock and they regret not doing it at the time.”
Dr Brislane added: “But when we have approached people that have had the conversation, they are immediately very enthusiastic that something good can come out of this.”
Ms Atherden also stressed that organ donation is important locally because Bermuda has a very high rate of non-communicable diseases that can lead to organ failure, such as diabetes and kidney disease.
“There are over 150 people on dialysis. A donated kidney can get a person off hundreds of hours of dialysis and get them back to a normal life.”
But she also pointed out that “organ transplants can not only save a life but also reduce the cost of insurance premiums for all of us”.
“We have high insurance premium costs. Dialysis costs $200,000 per year per person. A kidney transplant costs $130,000 and the person is off dialysis forever.”
Ms Atherden furthermore noted that people in good health can be living donors.
“Organ donation is really the gift that keeps on giving — one organ donation can help multiple people. I urge everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. You can have it written on your driver's licence, you can tell people your wishes. Just have the conversation.”
Ms Van der Merwe added that because there is no official donor registry in Bermuda, “all you can do is have it on your licence”.
“But the most important thing is to have the conversation with your family because if you're gone and they say no, it is no. Then your wishes would not be carried out.
“So we really urge people to have the conversation. That really is the most important thing going forward.”
As part of Organ Donor Week, the BODA organised two talks for healthcare professionals and more events are being planned for later in the year.