DESPERATE patients who need a kidney transplant are resorting to social media for help because of a shortage of donors.

Transplant staff in Glasgow said there had been a rise in inquiries about Directed Altruistic Organ Donation, a controversial area in living donation, where patients make a public appeal for a donor, either online on sites such as Facebook or within transplant groups or even newspapers.

Around 300 people are currently on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s waiting list.

Medics can’t refuse to test potential donors but said in most cases individuals decide against the procedure when they are informed of the risks.

However, staff said they had dealt with one transplant which had come about in this way.

The British Transplantation Society say directed altruism is a “challenging and controversial area” but that more recipients are exploring the option.

Donors may have a genetic relationship to the recipient with little or no formal contact or a complete stranger with no family connection.

The Human Tissue Authority can give approval provided there is no evidence of coercion of the donor. Referrals that arise through paid advertising will also not be accepted.

Julie Glen, live donor coordinator for NHSGGC, said: “My job is to work up donors who want to donate, albeit to a stranger or a loved one, they go through the same process.

“We can’t refuse to test them.

“Once they get the packs and realise there is a risk they could die they usually decide against it but we have had one case.”

Buying or selling a kidney in Britain is illegal and can be punished by three years in jail, however Julie said it is likely that it is happening in the UK.

The health board is currently focussed on driving up the numbers of living donations from family members and altruistic numbers as part of a government campaign, which launched earlier this month.

Last year, six patients received a donor organ from a stranger, double the number from 2015 and donations from family members are also increasing.

Julie said: “Hopefully by raising a bit more awareness we can increase that.

“We are working quite hard with the other transplant centre in Edinburgh to try to raise awareness with the support of the Scottish Government.

“We are also responsible for Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire and Arran and Lanarkshire so we have probably got about 300 on the active waiting list.

“If we can get more living donors then we can clear the list, it’s an ambitious dream so altruistic donors are very important in that and that’s something that is becoming more popular.

“For anybody who has renal failure who has progressed to dialysis, there’s an awful lot of hospital time involved.

“Getting a transplant sets you free from that.

“I have a much higher case load of altruistic donors than I would normally have so it’s definitely increasing which is good.

“From the donor point of view, they come in very apprehensive but leave, incredibly happy with the outcome.

“For them, knowing they have done something really great for someone they love, it’s an incredible journey.

“It can be incredibly disappointing for a family member if they are not a match but we do have other avenues we can explore through the National Sharing Scheme.

“If we have a willing donor who has passed the test, we will find a way to use the kidney.

“Altruistic donor might be people who have given blood all their life and they can’t do that anymore and it seems like the natural progression.

“It’s generally middle aged or retirement age who have lived a healthy life, knowing they are heading towards the end and think, why wait till I’m dead to donate.

“If someone is fit and healthy and gets past the donation process, age wouldn’t necessarily rule them out.”

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a possible change to a deemed consent transplant system, which major charities believe has the potential to dramatically increase the number of organs available for transplant. It follows a five-year campaign by the Evening Times.

Wales introduced the change in December 2015 and figures show in the first six months, of the 60 organs that were transplanted, 32 came from people whose consent had been “deemed”.

Julie said: “I think we are in quite a unique position in that Wales has already stepped forward so if they show that there is a massive difference in donation rates then I think we will have to follow suit.

“The best thing is for people to talk about it and making sure they are telling their loved ones is the most valuable thing that can come out of this debate.”

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