British Hindu and Jain groups have launched a campaign to raise awareness around an upcoming change in the law on organ donation in England.
Under the new law, which will be in force from next year, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.
Indian-origin peer Lord Jitesh Gadhia chaired a meeting in the UK Parliament complex this week alongside UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock to explain the legal changes around organ donation to members of Britain's Hindu and Jain communities.
"When the change in law comes into force next year, everyone must be provided with the right information and support to make the best possible choice for themselves," said Hancock.
"This campaign is a brilliant example of the community-based work that is vital to raising awareness and understanding around organ donation," he said.
A national group called the Jain and Hindu Organ Donation (JHOD) steering group was established last year to lead an awareness campaign.
JHOD has been working in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation responsible for organ donation across the UK, in developing videos and leaflets on the change in law from a Hindu and Jain perspective.
"Hindus and Jains can make a significant contribution to organ donation and help save lives," said Kirit Modi, Chair of JHOD, which will now focus on the next phase of encouraging Hindus and Jains to start talking about organ donation in the lead up to the law coming into force next year.
Lord Gadhia said: "I do appreciate that what happens at the time of death is always a sensitive topic in all cultures. There is natural human instinct to mentally block-out this subject. But I sincerely believe that we owe it to ourselves and our families to have these difficult conversations at an early stage. It falls into the same category as writing a will.
"The legal change allows us to influence social acceptance and gain access to new resources such as the Government's Community Investment Fund and the Faith Specific Donor Card."
Some excluded groups under the organ donation bracket include those under 18, people who lack mental capacity, visitors to England, those not living in the UK voluntarily and people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death.
All other adults covered by the change in law from the spring of 2020 will have a choice whether they want to be an organ donor and their families will still be involved before organ donation goes ahead, NHS Blood and Transplant said, calling on everyone to make their choice clear to their families and close friends to ensure their choice is honoured after death.
"It is so important for people to keep talking about organ donation and sharing their decision with their families," said Mille Banerjee, Chair of the NHS Blood and Transplant Board.
"Religious leaders can greatly aid the cause by promoting the donation of organs to enable transplants to take place as a part of their sewa," added Bob Blackman, a Conservative Party MP from Harrow East, one of London's heavily Hindu populated areas.