Family of organ donor son ‘dismayed’ by transplants being halted by relatives

Jack Leggett, nine, who died through a brain tumour.
Jack Leggett, nine, who died through a brain tumour.

A family who gave their son’s organs to save lives say they have been left “dismayed” that hundreds of transplants have been halted by relatives going against the wishes of loved ones.

Alfie Leggett and Susan Clarkson were devastated when nine-year-old Jack lost his battle with a brain tumour in 2013.

Susan Clarkson and Alfie Leggett

Susan Clarkson and Alfie Leggett

Despite their grief they made the brave decision to allow his organs to be donated to help give the gift of life to others.

The couple say they are stunned after NHS Blood and Transplant have released figures showing more than 500 families have gone against the wishes of their loved ones and refused to allow organ donation to go ahead since April 2010.

This is despite the deceased being on the organ donor register and has led to an estimated 1,200 people missing out on potentially life-saving transplants.

Mr Leggett, from Primrose Avenue, South Shields said: “I can understand people being upset and confused. Donating a loved one’s organs is a hard decision to make.

Whether you allow donation to go ahead won’t change how you feel. You will still miss them, still hurt and grieve for them.

Alfie Leggett

“For us, donating Jack’s organs was an easy decision to make. There was nothing that could be done to save him but knowing he was able to give someone the gift of life did bring us some comfort.

“It is really important that families allow their loved ones wishes to donate an organ to be honoured.”

Although being on the NHS Organ Donor Register is a legally valid decision, in practice if a family feel strongly that they cannot support the decision, donation doesn’t go ahead.

NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to let their loved ones know of their wishes.

Mr Leggett added: “By allowing donation to take place you are helping to save someone’s life. If the person has made the decision to donate their organs, I just can’t understand why their family would then go against their wishes.”

A recent survey by NHS Blood and Transplant found 73% believed next of kin shouldn’t be able to over rule the decision made by the person who died.

Only 11% thought it was acceptable to do so.

Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We understand that families are approached about donation at a very challenging time and that it can come as a surprise to find out a relative had made a decision to donate.

“This can make it difficult for families to support donation and their relative saving lives.

“We want to draw attention to the fact that, while most families approached about donation support their relative’s decision, a number override a previously made donation decision.

“We hope that by raising this issue we will prompt more families to talk about donation and reduce the number of families over riding their relative’s earlier decision.

“We know that donor families take enormous pride from knowing that their relative helped others. We also hear that some families have gone on to regret overriding a relative’s decision to donate.”

To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.