Barbadians are willing to donate their organs to others after death, a local study has shown, even if they are not aware of all of the details associated with the process.
Local renal transplant surgeon with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr. Margaret O’Shea told an audience at The Sylma Reeves Memorial Lecture last night put on by the Faculty of Medical Sciences and the Barbados Kidney Association at the UWI, that whereas studies in the UK showed that awareness about donation was in the range of 94 and 87 per cent in some parts of London, in Barbados only about 20 per cent of persons seemed to know about deceased organ donation.
She pointed to a study done in 2011 which indicated that despite lack of intimate knowledge Barbadians were overwhelmingly in support of the idea of donating their organs after death. From the study, 73 per cent were willing, 22 per cent were not sure and only five per cent gave a definite no.
In Barbados, however, she said persons in the study had indicated a strong belief that if they said yes to donation after death, medical professionals might not try as hard to save their lives if they were in a critical situation. She said it was clear that more education was needed to dispel that myth.
The conclusion of the study, she read, stated: “Barbados has a positive social environment for setting up or participation in a wider Caribbean transplant programme based on the ‘gift’ of life.”
Similarly, a recent brain death audit at the QEH, she said, showed that there were four persons whose organs were healthy enough to donate, but lack of legislation led to the loss of eight good kidneys and other organs.
A separate 2012 study on the Perceptions, Knowledge and Attitudes Surrounding Kidney Transplant in Barbados, conducted by doctors O’Shea, Pamela Gaskin, Lisa Belle, et al, showed that of the 17 of 40 persons eligible for transplant, the majority had heard of living donor transplantation.
However, 53 per cent had never heard of brain dead donations, compared to 47 per cent who said yes; and 53 per cent, compared to 17 per cent who said no, were considering living donor donations – 12 per cent said they did not know, while 18 per cent were unsure.
Of those considering donation, 11 per cent had asked a father; 22 per cent their mother; 44 per cent a brother; 33 per cent a sister and 22 per cent a spouse. None had asked their children.
Eighty-nine per cent of those considering living donor kidney transplants had already spoken to relatives and friends about the options; while among the 49 per cent of those who had considered deceased donor transplants, most, 67 per cent, were uncertain about talking to friends and family about the choice.
About the future of donations of organs from deceased persons, the most recent study concluded that there was a need for a legal framework for brain death legislation; a need for a legal framework for living wills/advanced directives; and, the need for more staff for in-house tissue typing. (LB)