A family’s campaign to create the organ donor register has helped enable more than 18,000 life-saving and life-improving transplants to date.
The Organ Donor Register was launched in 1994 after a successful five-year campaign by the Cox family from the West Midlands.
Peter Cox, 24, had told his family about his wish to donate organs before his death from a brain tumour but the family were surprised to find there was no register for potential donors.
The family successfully lobbied the Government and, after extensive consultation and co-ordination, the register was launched on October 6 1994.
NHS Blood and Transplant has thanked the Cox family for their campaign ahead of the 70th anniversary of the NHS next month and as the Government considers plans to introduce an opt out system instead of the current opt in.
Figures show that 6,600 people who were on the register have become donors after their deaths since it was launched, leading to 18,000 transplants.
There are now more than 25 million people on the NHS Organ Donor Register, representing 38% of the UK population.
The centralised donor register allows specialist nurses to quickly and easily check if someone has indicated they wish to donate.
The Cox family, from Wolverhampton, campaigned for the register in memory of Mr Cox after he died in 1989.
The graduate civil engineer, who was working on the M40, died after a nine month illness due to an astrocytoma.
His sister, Christine Cox, now 55, and living in London, said: “When he knew he was dying, he told us that he wanted to donate his organs and it was up to us to make it happen.
“He was the most inspirational young man I have ever known. I miss him every day. He loved his family, he was very charitable.
“He was the life and soul of the party. He would have made a difference to the world. He is still an inspiration and he is still giving so much to so many people.”
The family had suggested introducing an opt out system then, but were told it would not reach legislation at that time and so they put their efforts into establishing the database.
Today, the register is managed by a team of 10 based in Bristol. More than one million people join the register each year.
Ben Hume, NHS Blood and Transplant’s head of transplant support services, said: “We’re so grateful to the Cox family for their tireless work. The NHS70 celebrations are not just about recognising NHS staff but members of the public who have worked to save lives.
“If a family knows that their relative wanted to save lives and was on the register it can be so much easier for them to support this. If their relative had not registered, the family is still approached about donation and asked to make a decision at a very difficult time on their relative’s behalf.
“So we urge people who support the life-saving power of organ donation to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell their families they want to donate.”
Visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk to join the organ register.