A Sikh health expert has been awarded £130,000 for a two-year research project which could prove vital in efforts to increase the number of UK organ donations from south Asian and black ethnic groups. NHS Blood and Transport has awarded the funding to Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire. It is hoped his findings will inform strategies for future organ donation appeals. Changing perceptions about organ donation among south Asian and black groups is already part of a campaign to increase donations by 50 per cent in the next five years.Dr. Randhawa states that the need for organ donors was three or four times higher among black and Asian people than among the general population, but donation rates were relatively low among those groups and this impacts directly upon those communities. His project has the backing of a Sikh family in Luton, close to the Bedfordshire university. In January 2001, Mandip Mudhar, a 20-year-old student, died in London’s Royal Free Hospital six days after suffering severe head injuries in a road accident. Told that he would not recover consciousness, his parents decided to donate Mandip’s heart and two kidneys. The Mandip Mudhar Memorial Foundation was started by Mandip’s family.
Among potential donors the refusal rate for non-white groups is 69 per cent, according to Professor Randhawa, compared with 35 per cent for potential white donors. “Community leaders and religious groups need to engage with their local community to encourage organ donation and we need to identify what would make the gifting of organs relevant to a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society,” said the professor.The Sikh perspective on organ translation is addressed on a leaflet available at the UK Transplant website. It reads: “Sikh philosophy and teachings place great emphasis on the importance of giving and putting others before oneself” It also stresses “the importance of performing noble deeds and there are many examples of selfless giving and sacrifice in Sikh teachings by the ten Gurus and other Sikhs. Sikhs believe life after death is a continuous cycle of rebirth but the physical body is not needed in this cycle – a person’s soul is their real essence.” (The dead sustain their bond with the living through virtuous deed.” Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, p 143) Dr Indarjit Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK has stated that: “The Sikh religion teaches that life after death continues after death in the soul, and not the physical body. The last act of giving and helping others through organ donation is both consistent with, and in the spirit, of Sikh teachings.” [link]