London:Most people in the UK agree with organ donation, but 51% of them have never discussed the subject with their families, according to a BBC survey to raise awareness of the issues.
Just under half of those who had not joined the NHS Organ Donor Register said they had not thought about it.
A further 30% said they wanted to, but had “not got around to it”.
Six out of 10 people believe there should be a change in the law to an opt-out system to mean that everyone would automatically be considered a potential donor unless they have specifically registered that they do not wish to be.
The survey also found most people vastly over-estimated the number of organ transplants carried out last year. In fact, only 7,725 heart, lung, kidney, pancreas or liver transplants were carried out. There are currently 7,708 people waiting for an organ transplant.
One in 10 of those questioned said they would not wish to donate their organs, but many had misconceptions over what donation involves.
Over half said that they didn’t want their body to be experimented on after their death. A third believed they were too old or unwell for their organs to be of any use
A fifth were concerned doctors would not fight as hard to save them if they knew they wished to be a donor, or that they might not really be dead when organs were
A quarter felt it might “tempt fate” if they joined the register
Organ transplant experts said all of these concerns were incorrect.
In terms of their own organs, 54% said they were most concerned about their heart. The lungs were the main worry for one in six, over half of whom were smokers.
The survey also highlighted people’s lack of awareness about the human body.
A quarter didn’t know that the kidneys filter waste products out of blood – 3% believed it helped improve a person’s sex drive.
Chris Rudge, Medical Director of UK Transplant – responsible for matching and allocating donated organs for transplant, and for maintaining the NHS Organ Donor Register – said: “We are glad the BBC has chosen to draw attention to this very important issue.
“We hope that it will help raise awareness of the benefits of transplantation and encourage people to make an informed decision about joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“The BBC survey confirms the widespread support that exists for organ donation in the UK and emphasises the vital need for people to talk about their own wishes with those close to them.”
A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: “What is worrying is that there is clearly still a lot of misunderstanding about organ donation. “The survey revealed that a fifth of respondents thought that if they joined the register, doctors would not fight as hard to save their life. This is totally incorrect.”