Top tips for talking to your family about organ donation

family at the dinner table talking about organ donation
(Image credit: Getty)

Talking to your family about organ donation might feel awkward at first – many of us naturally shy away from discussing what we’d want to happen after death. But it needn’t be a taboo topic at home.  

As many as 80% of people in England are willing to donate some or all of their organs when they die – helping to save the lives of others, but less than half of these people have shared their decision with their loved ones.

Talking to your family about organ donation

With a few of our pointers to get the chat started, you can approach this important conversation like you would any other.

Do you have enough info?

It’s important that you have the right facts about organ donation – not only so you can decide if you want to be an organ donor, but also to help you chat about it with your partner, parents, siblings and friends so that they’re not in the dark. 

And it’s normal for your loved ones to have questions, especially if they don’t know much about organ donation themselves. One of the biggest myths about being an organ donor is that it’s not your decision. It very much is your choice, and anyone can decide to be an organ donor, and register this on the NHS Organ Donor Register – regardless of age, current health, ethnicity, or faith and beliefs. 

Having this key info to hand can make a conversation go smoother. You could write down some facts or save them as notes in your phone to help guide you as you’re chatting. 

Learn more about organ donation

Mum and older daughter chatting

Pick the right time

There’s no point bringing up the conversation if you’re rushing around getting the kids ready, or when you and your partner are distracted with work. Choose a time to chat when the family is feeling relaxed. 

Chatting over a cuppa is always a good idea or you could bring it up when you’re out for a walk together. There’s no need to rush the conversation. If you get the feeling that others aren’t in the mood to talk, drop it and try approaching the chat again at a better time.

In this video, families talk about how they had the conversation about organ donation - and why it’s so important to talk about your decision

Good conversation starters

Wondering how to bring up the topic of organ donation with your loved ones? You could...

  • Mention that you’ve seen something on TV about organ donation, or heard a positive story in the news or on social media. You could show this to your family or share with friends to get the conversation going.
  • Share an amazing fact, such as “did you know that you can donate your corneas after you die, to give someone back their eyesight?”
  • Gently ask them what they currently know about organ donation and their feelings on it.

mixed race couple drinking coffee in kitchen

Communicate honestly and openly

Now’s the time to share what you’re thinking and feeling. And it’s ok for you and your family to have different opinions! The goal is to talk things through so that you really understand each other’s decision about organ donation – ultimately so everyone’s certain if something should happen to you. 

Respectful communication on any topic – including this one, involves letting the other person talk without interrupting them. It’s also good to repeat back to someone what you’ve just heard them say so that there’s no misunderstandings. Be open and willing to answer any questions that your family might have honestly. 

Did you know that 9 out of 10 families in the UK support donation going ahead when they know it’s what their loved one would’ve wanted? Have the chat now so that everyone’s sure.