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Youth most open to organ donation after death: Poll

SINGAPORE — With the wait for a kidney or heart transplant well over a year — up to nine years on average for patients waiting for a kidney — a survey by a group of students from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) has found that youth are the most receptive to the idea of donating their organs after they die, compared with older Singaporeans.

Youth most open to organ donation after death: Poll

National Kidney Foundation CEO Edmund Kwok visiting a kidney patient. Kidney-transplant patients have a nine-year waiting period on average, while heart-transplant patients wait for approximately
20 months.
PHOTO: National
Kidney Foundation

SINGAPORE — With the wait for a kidney or heart transplant well over a year — up to nine years on average for patients waiting for a kidney — a survey by a group of students from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) has found that youth are the most receptive to the idea of donating their organs after they die, compared with older Singaporeans.

The willingness of those below the age of 30 to donate their organs after they die was 81.9 per cent, compared with 60.3 per cent for those aged 30 to 60, and 22 per cent for those above 60, based on the survey of 281 Singaporeans. While young Singaporeans consider it a charitable act, elderly Singaporeans felt their organs were unsuitable for donation, because of their relatively poorer health and age, the students found in their interviews with respondents.

And it is important to seize on the positive attitudes of the young to ensure this is sustained, such that they do not eventually choose to opt out of the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA), which allows the kidneys, liver, heart and cornea to be recovered in the event of death for transplantation.

Commenting on the survey findings, SingHealth Transplant director London Lucien Ooi, said: “Yes they are taught (about organ donation) because we approach the MOE (Ministry of Education) to help us with the curriculum, but they are too young ... you must reinforce (this) at maybe junior college or university, when they are 19, 20.”

According to the Ministry of Health’s National Organ Transplant Unit, kidney-transplant patients have a nine-year waiting period on average, while heart-transplant patients wait for approximately 20 months.

Currently, there are 404 kidney patients and 23 heart patients on the respective waiting lists. About 15 patients die while waiting for an organ transplant every year.

Sharing the findings of their survey — which won them the top prize for tertiary institutions at the inaugural SingHealth Transplant Youth Symposium yesterday — the five-student HCI team suggested that youth make organ-donation pledges as a way of helping their families, who sometimes pressure their children to opt out of HOTA, accept their decision.

Added team member Clara Quek, 17: “We found that it was really important to have tailored messages for the different age groups, as the youth will not understand the severity of the issue if we present them with statistics.”

Professor Ooi also said public education is needed in tandem with creating awareness. “Awareness without education has no meaning — you know about it, but you do not understand enough to say you will support donation. We are fearful of things that we do not know,” he said.

Indeed, findings from a research project by a four-student team from Holy Innocents’ High School — which won in the secondary-school category — showed that students were more receptive to organ donation after being taught about HOTA and organ donation.

The SingHealth Transplant Youth Symposium, held at the Singapore General Hospital yesterday, was part of this year’s SingHealth Transplant Awareness Week.

More than 300 students from secondary and tertiary institutions took part, presenting their research projects on organ transplantation and learning more about legislation and issues surrounding organ and tissue donation.

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