Chiswick doctor Kok-Tee becomes poster girl for organ donation

 Images above: Kok-Tee with husband Peter and with a friend’s cat

Kok-Tee Khaw wanted to make a difference when she died

Kok-Tee Khaw, a consultant radiologist who lived in Chiswick and died last year, chose to donate her organs, because she realised from her life as a doctor how important it could be – both life-saving and life-changing for the recipients.

Malaysian-born Kok-Tee, who was 67 when she died, became an organ and tissue donor when she had an accident and suffered untreatable injuries.

READ ALSO: Kok-Tee Khaw obituary

Her case is being used by the NHS Blood and Transplant unit as one of a number of examples to try and persuade more people, particularly from Black and Minority Ethnic groups to do the same.

In 2020, the law around organ donation changed so that all adults in England are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die. In order to opt-out, you have to have recorded a decision not to donate, or to be in one of a number of excluded groups, which include those under the age of 18, visitors to England and those who lack the capacity to understand the law change.

“When they brought in the law change, I remember Kok-Tee saying that she wanted to confirm her support for donation,” said her husband, Peter Taylor.

“When we were at the hospital deciding what to do, I said Kok-Tee wanted to give her organs,” he continued.

“It was [her] decision, so we had to honour that. It shows the importance of putting your name on the register.”

Peter is also a doctor, and worked for many years as a surgeon. Two of Kok-Tee’s siblings are also senior physicians, so in her case, the family were behind her decision, but the NHS Blood and Transplant unit says:

‘It is commonly seen that patients and/or families of ethnic minorities refuse transplantation or donation due to misunderstandings and uncertainty regarding the unknown.

‘The main reasons families from ethnic minority backgrounds gave for declining consent/authorisation for organ donation were that they felt it was against their religious or cultural beliefs or they were unsure whether the patient would have agreed to donation.’

They want people, particularly members of the Black and Ethnic Minority communities, to make their intentions clear, so their families will know they have made a positive decision to donate their organs, and honour it, to improve organ donation and transplantation rates within these ethnic minority communities.

Images above: Kok-Tee with her siblings. L to R Khaw Chay-Tee, Khaw Kok-Tee, Professor Khaw Kay-Tee CBE and Professor Sir Khaw Peng-Tee

Kok-Tee among a rising number of ethnic minority donors who want their wishes to be clear

Kok-Tee Thaw is one of a number of donors who represent a considerable rise in opt-in registrations from Asian and Black heritage donors, as the number of people from ethnic minorities is still vastly underrepresented when it comes to becoming organ donors.

In 2019, 7.1% of people who registered for organ donation were from ethnic minorities. This figure rose to 11.7% in 2023. However, the number of donors is still not sufficient to treat everyone who needs a donor.

People of Asian Heritage made up 4% of deceased donors but 19% of the transplant waiting list.

Lead nurse for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, Winnie Andango stressed the importance of same-heritage donors.

“Currently over three-quarters of people waiting for a transplant in the UK are waiting for a kidney,” she said.

“The chances of finding a suitable donor are higher when a potential donor is of the same ethnicity.”

The statistics from the past five years summed up in the report show that 62% of Asian and 51% of Black Kidney transplants receive a kidney from a living donor of the same ethnicity.

How would Kok-Tee feel about being a ‘poster girl’?

We asked Peter how he thought Kok-Tee would have reacted to being a ‘poster-girl’ for organ donation.

“I think it would have made her laugh. It made me laugh and it made her sister laugh and I think anyone who knew her would realise it would have made her laugh.”

More information regarding organ donation can be found on the NHS website here: organdonation.nhs.uk

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