BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is leading an awareness campaign in the UK about living organ donation among Hindus in a programme funded by NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT). As part of the project, a living organ donation conference was held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Saturday 28 October 2017.
Organ donation is the giving of an organ to someone who needs it, to save or transform their life. There are two ways of donating an organ – a living donation or a donation after death. A living donor is someone who donates an organ whilst they are alive. The most common organ donated by living donors is the kidney.
The conference was held to bring together patients who are currently on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant, those who have undergone a kidney transplant and their families, medical experts, local transplant teams, and Hindu religious leaders. The aim was to specifically raise awareness about living donation among Hindus and to provide practical guidance on improving living organ donation rates in Hindu communities.
Donors and recipients of kidneys shared moving testimonies, while a kidney specialist consultant and a transplant nurse from Hammersmith Hospital gave an insight into the advantages of living transplants over transplants after death. Experts explained that no living donor is accepted without thorough medical checks and assessments of their social circumstances prior to donating, thereby addressing common concerns over safety.
Nila Madhavji from ISKCON explained how organ donation is a selfless form of ‘daan’ (charity) which allows one to give the gift of life, and is fully endorsed by the Hindu scriptures. Devan Parekh, a lead volunteer from BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, further reinforced the message of giving selflessly and emphasised that living organ donation should be considered by all Hindus.
The wider awareness campaign by BAPS has also produced an information leaflet and informative documentary exploring the experiences of Hindu donors, patients and medical opinions on living organ donation. The video, available on YouTube, also includes the blessings of Mahant Swami Maharaj and inspiration from other religious representatives.
Over a hundred people attended the conference, the majority from north-west London and of Asian Indian ethnicity. The feedback received was very positive; 84% of attendees said they would be likely or very likely to consider living organ donation to family or friends in need a kidney and 72% said they wanted to learn more about living organ donation. Lisa Burnapp, a lead nurse for living donation from NHSBT, pledged to generate a specific area on the NHSBT website to publish information from this campaign, which will be accessible to all Asians and Hindus who want to find out more about living donation.
Delegates shared their positive impressions from the conference and said that they “had learned so much” and were “committed to helping raise awareness” about living organ donation. They also praised presenters for the clarity of their presentations and answers to questions.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in the UK has been campaigning to raise awareness about this issue and encourage Asians and Hindus to sign up to the organ donation register since 2011. The latest campaign specifically aims to raise awareness about living organ donation among Hindus, addressing the anxiety and hesitation that exists about discussing this as an alternative to dialysis.
Dr Neil Soneji, a lead volunteer for BAPS, said, “We at BAPS pledge to continue to raise awareness about living organ donation and work closely with other Hindu communities to spread this life-saving message.”