High blood pressure is common in BAME communities

BAME Organ Donation: Why aren't there more donors?

Date published: 
18 March 2019

Organ donation is an important issue that has a potential to affect everyone in society,

Currently, Black, Asian, Mixed and other ethnic minority (BAME) patients often wait longer than White patients to receive vital organ transplants. 

  • Last year, Asian patients waited almost 3 years for a lung transplant, while White patients waited around 9 months 
  • Last year, Black & Asian patients waited about 6 months longer than White patients for a kidney transplants

Longer waiting times for BAME patients are a direct consequence of two things: 

  • High demand for organ transplants amongst BAME communities, and 
  • Low consent rates and low opt-in registrations to the organ donor register.

Why does ethnicity matter?

The imbalance is a problem because, for a successful transplant, blood and tissue types need to match; and this match is most likely to happen where the donor and the recipient are from the same ethnic background

Demand for organ transplants is high among BAME communities because BAME people are more likely to have diseases that lead to organ failure. For instance, type 2 diabetes (which can cause chronic kidney disease) is 6 times more likely in people of South Asian descent and three times more likely in people of African and African-Caribbean descent than White people. 

High demand is made worse because not enough BAME people are registering to become organ donors, and BAME families are far less likely than White families to consent to organs being donated when a loved one passes away. In London, when a deceased person was eligible to donate organs, 66 per cent of White families consented to donation compared to only 45 per cent of ethnic minority families.

Soon, the law on organ donation will change – meaning unless the deceased has explicitly opted out of the donor register, their consent to organ donation is assumed. The issue is, doctors still might not go through with the transplant if the family don’t agree. 

BAME Organ donor survey

The London Assembly Health Committee has published a survey which looks into attitudes towards organ donation within BAME communities.

These are some of the results from the survey. Of those surveyed:

  • Only 1% stated they are registered as organ donors
  • 42% were unwilling to become donors; 29% were willing or already registered and 28% were undecided
  • 51% of people unwilling to donate said they believed it conflicted with their religion; 19% said it was because they felt it conflicted with their culture.


The full results of the survey are below. 

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