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Many U.K. Families Opt Not to Donate Organs

Ethnic minority families are less likely than whites to choose to donate organs

FRIDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- About 40 percent of families of potential organ donors in the United Kingdom decline to donate a relative's organs, which is one of the major hurdles to improving access to transplant organs, according to a study published May 13 in BMJ.

Kerri Barber, of UK Transplant, NHS Blood and Transplant in Bristol, and colleagues studied all deaths in 341 intensive care units in 284 U.K. hospitals from April 2003 to April 2005. The researchers determined if brain stem testing was conducted and if the issue of organ donation was raised, as well as the final decision of the families.

There were 46,801 deceased patients and 2,740 potential donors. Only 1,244 of the potential donors became organ donors. Forty-one percent of families refused donation. Compared to whites, twice as many families from ethnic minorities refused organ donation, the researchers report.

"Intensive care units are extremely good in considering possible organ donation from suitable patients," the authors write. "The biggest obstacle to improving the organ donation rate is the high proportion of relatives who deny consent."

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