Seventh-day Adventists joined representatives from other faith communities in a meeting with British Parliament members last week to formalize their work in support of the country's organ donation campaign.
The campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of the need for organ donations -- particularly among black and Asian ethnic groups -- is an "acknowledgment of the contributions and commitment" of faith and community groups, said Komal Adris, founder and director of the national Organ Donor Campaign.
The November 23 meeting included members of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities and addressed how faith and culture can influence a person's attitude toward organ donation and decision to become a donor or recipient.
Altruistic organ donation -- in which person donates an organ to a stranger -- has made headlines in the United Kingdom since 2006, when Parliament passed the Human Tissue Act, which established a legal framework for anonymous donors, the Telegraph reported last month. Out of 3,800 living donations since then, 52 have been altruistic, the article said.
The Organ Donor Campaign seeks to raise that number, especially among minorities. Despite comprising just 8 percent of the United Kingdom's population, members of minority communities account for a quarter of patients actively waiting for kidney transplants.
They also donate the fewest organs -- statistics indicate that just 1.7 percent of organ donors are black, 1.6 percent are Asian and more than 95 percent are white. An increase in organ donations from minorities would make a radical difference in the treatment of end-stage kidney, heart and liver failure, organ donation advocates said.
Overall, more than 10,000 people in the United Kingdom are waiting for an organ transplant, and 10 percent of them are likely to die while waiting, according to the Organ Donor Campaign's website.
Faith communities are ideally situated to change their members' attitudes toward organ donation, Adris said. The Seventh-day Adventist Church's structure, network and contacts make it a particularly valuable ally, Adris told Sharon Platt-McDonald, who directs the church's Health and Disability Ministries in the United Kingdom and was among Adventist representatives at the meeting.
"The fact that [Adventists] have health leaders within each of the churches is pretty phenomenal," Adris said. "You've got a ready resource that we can now work with in disseminating the message, which makes the job that we're trying to do a lot easier."
Prior to the meeting, five Adventist congregations in the United Kingdom worked to raise awareness of the upcoming campaign, participating in interviews and focus groups with key members of the country's Organ Donation Taskforce.
"It was a privilege to be involved in a national program such as this and be able to share the message that Adventists are compassionate people who care about the needs of others," said Sam Davies, pastor of the Luton Central Adventist Church. "Organ donation is something that we can become involved with, as it saves lives," he said.
The Organ Donor Campaign is a joint initiative of the Organ Donation Taskforce and the Department of Health in the United Kingdom. To read more about the initiative, visit www.theodc.org.uk.