Touchy subject today but so vital for so many.

Organ donation.

According to reports I have been reading online, one in seven families are currently going against a deceased loved one’s express wishes and vetoing the donation of their organs for transplant. We’re not talking about doctors hovering round a patient on their deathbed then just taking what they need without a by-your-leave, no we’re talking about people who have said they want to donate their organs when they die whose relatives then say no.

Why? What’s the problem?

The person who has died must have thought about it if they bothered to register and fill in a card. It’s what they wanted, so why? Why not save someone else’s life if it’s possible? Why condemn another family to losing their loved one too? What’s the point of burning or burying something that could give so many a possible future by refusing to do what a family member wanted? In my view, that’s just selfish.

When I die I will no longer need my body. I will no longer need any of my organs. I will have become no more than a piece of meat. I will have no further use for them. The essential me will not be there any more. I will either have vanished into the ether or met my maker and gone to heaven, hell, Valhalla, wherever. The key point is that I will be gone. If my choice is that my organs should be passed on to someone who needs them rather than being wasted, isn’t that good? Shouldn’t my wishes be abided by?

Several years ago I did what nearly everyone else does and wrote my will. I made a decision about what I wanted to happen to all my property, my personal possessions, what little I have when I die. I made a list of my things and said what I want done with them all. And, when I die, my family will inherit those things. They are unlikely to refuse them, few that there may be. Why then, if they extremely unlikely to refuse to abide by my wishes concerning the distribution of my goods and chattels, should they have the right to go against my wishes when it comes to my body? In many ways, isn’t that the most valuable thing I have? Which is more important, a few bits and pieces of jewellry and a pile of bricks and mortar or the gift of life to someone else who will die without my organs? Isn’t that precious gift the best legacy I could leave?   

I understand how traumatic the death of a relative can be, which is why I am a great advocate of having an opt out scheme for organ donation rather than our current, opt in system. Wales now has opt out, why not the rest of the UK? Opt out would take so much pressure off families and off the medical profession. How hard must it be for a doctor to say to a parent or a child ‘I’m so sorry, there is nothing more we can do. Please can we operate now to remove kidneys, lungs, liver, heart so we can give the to someone else?’ It’s not a conversation I would like to start. Given how crucial speed is when it comes to organ removal for transplantation, surely a presumption that donation is the norm rather than the exception is the way to go?

When I shuffle off this mortal coil I would like to think that my family would get more comfort from knowing that a little part of me, a little part that I no longer need, has helped save someone else’s life and lives on in them rather than knowing I have been buried or burned in my entirety and everything wasted. Unless there is a religious belief that forbids it or a valid medical reason such as serious illness, infection or addiction which would prevent donation being a possibility, I feel that most people would prefer to save a life rather than refuse to help. Opt out removes the uncertainty, it should be implemented immediately and legislation passed to ensure there are no more unnecessary, preventable deaths. Doctors should be allowed to take what they need. Very few people would like to have an organ preserved in formaldehyde on their mantlepiece but the knowledge that another family still has a son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister may, in time, help a lot and keep a memory alive. That is a legacy I can live with.