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Dad of Josh Gilbert says it is 'crucial' people are clear about organ donation wishes

PUBLISHED: 16:00 05 May 2019

Josh Gilbert (left) at work in Montana, USA, in 2013 Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Josh Gilbert (left) at work in Montana, USA, in 2013 Picture: CONTRIBUTED

CONTRIBUTED

When a popular young rugby player and farmer died unexpectedly more than a year ago his family already knew his wishes for organ donation.

The 'Pass it on' campaign has been launched by NHS Blood and Transplant ahead of a law change regarding organ donation next year.The 'Pass it on' campaign has been launched by NHS Blood and Transplant ahead of a law change regarding organ donation next year.

Josh Gilbert, 25, from Walsham-Le-Willows and who played for Thurston Rugby Club, has “revolutionised the quality of life” for more than 50 people following his death by being a donor - a figure that will keep rising.

His dad Howard Gilbert has stressed the importance of discussing organ donation wishes with loved ones as NHS Blood and Transplant launches a campaign to increase awareness of the organ donation law change that comes into force next year.

From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

The year-long campaign 'Pass it on' wants people to consider organ donation as a “precious gift,” to make and share their decision and spread the word about the law change.

Howard had the simple message: “Talk about it.”

He said: “Any legislative change that enables one human being to save the life of another has to be welcomed. Furthermore, if there is no material cost to the process, then what could be wrong?

Ipswich Town fan Josh was a season ticket holder for 19 years - he is pictured here with Tommy Smith at a Newcastle away game Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILYIpswich Town fan Josh was a season ticket holder for 19 years - he is pictured here with Tommy Smith at a Newcastle away game Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

“However, since Joshua's untimely departure, we have been made acutely aware of just how divided personal opinion on the destiny of ones organs and body tissue can be.

“Therefore, the crucial factor is knowing the exact wishes of each family member and that can only be discovered by holding a potentially uncomfortable conversation.

“We count ourselves fortunate in knowing, thanks to Josh's desire for clarity in so many aspects of his life, just what his wishes were.”

He added that thanks to the volume of his body tissue parts that were utilised, he has now massively improved the quality of life for more than 50 people - a number that will continue to rise as time elapses thanks to the longevity of the tissues donated.

The statistics

Josh pictured with his friend Ed Ford. Picture: ED FORDJosh pictured with his friend Ed Ford. Picture: ED FORD

•Only 37% of over 16s in England are currently aware that the law is changing;

•Eight out of 10 people in England say they would definitely donate or would consider donating their organs, but only a third have told their family they want to donate;

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•Currently in Essex there are 119 people waiting for a transplant and in the past two years. 18 have died waiting;

•Every day across the UK three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren't enough donors, while 6,000 are still waiting;

Provided by NHS Blood and Transplant.

Josh at the Bury St Edmunds Young Farmers Club's 50th Anniversary Ball at Thurston RUFC in 2016. He was chairman of the club at the time and was collecting money for the raffle. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILYJosh at the Bury St Edmunds Young Farmers Club's 50th Anniversary Ball at Thurston RUFC in 2016. He was chairman of the club at the time and was collecting money for the raffle. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The campaign 'Pass it on'

The campaign, developed with input from people from a range of ages and backgrounds, aims to clearly communicate that the law is changing and the choices available, as well as encouraging people to make a decision and share this with their family.

The main creative concept aims to portray the gift of organ donation and features a person holding a digitally-created heart-shaped balloon.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Organ donation is, and always will be, a precious gift.

“Although the law is changing it will still be the generosity of individual donors and their families who decide at the most difficult time to support organ donation, which will ensure more transplants can happen and more lives can be saved.

“We want everyone to know the law around organ donation is changing, to understand how it is changing and the choices available to them. We want them to make their organ donation decision and to share that decision with their family.”

Those excluded will be people under 18, people who lack the capacity to understand the change and people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death or who are not living here voluntarily.

Tracey Gibson, team manager South East Organ Donation Services, said: “Your family will still be involved and asked whether they knew what your decision was. So, we encourage you to think about what's right for you, to register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and to share your decision with your family.”

The 'Pass it on' campaign is being supported by charities and community groups, including British Heart Foundation, Kidney Care UK, Donor Family Network, Share Your Wishes, ACLT and National BAME Transplant Alliance.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Inequalities, said it is hoped Max and Keira's Law will save hundreds of lives when it comes into effect next year, but until then, it's vital people understand what the new law means for them and strongly urged people to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and make their decision clear on the register.

NHS Blood and Transplant provides the blood donation service for England and the organ donation service for the UK. It also provides donated tissues, stem cells and cord blood.

For more information about the campaign see here.

To find out more about organ donation, the law change, or to opt in or out see here or call the dedicated advice line on 0300 303 2094.

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