Monday, 12 April 2010

Donor Mix-Up: Time for a new system?

So organ donation has been back in the news, and not for the best of reasons. It seems that there's been a mix-up in the transferring data from the DVLA which means that some people had been signed up as organ donors have had organs removed which they did not specify. Whilst this is obviously an unfortunate incident, I don't agree with the minority of people who use this small story to cast doubt on the whole donation system. I think it's a small story for a few reasons. It affected a small number of people, all of whom had agreed to some form of organ donation and all the families were consulted at the time of death. No-one has been hurt in this.

As for the system, I think the issue being back in the news could help focus attention again. The fact of the matter is that there are not enough donors available to save the lives of those on the waiting list, and its not due to disgust at the idea, but to lack of information or perhaps simply laziness on behalf of people who would consider donating. About 90% of people think organ donation is a good idea, yet under 30% are registered donors, somewhere along the line the importance of this is getting lost. A lot of this is the fact that people rarely want to think about their own mortality, no-one wants to be planning for their death. And the other major reason is that at the moment you actually have to make the concious effort to put yourself on the register, something a lot of people just don't get around to doing. So what's the answer?

There are a lot of advocates of introducing presumed consent, where you would donate organs on your death unless you decided to opt-out of the system. This gets around the issue of having to make the effort to put yourself on the system and think about your death whilst still leaving the option to not donate organs. I think the whole thing is a bit more complicated than that though.
This might make people fearful of state control over their body and damage the relationship with doctors and the confidence they have in the system. Also, not all presumed consent initiatives have led to much higher donation rates. On the flip-side you have to weigh these facts up with the knowledge that not doing anything is condemning people who could be saved to death, surely their rights as a person should be taken into consideration.

Overall, I think that more information needs to be given to people about the benefits of organ donation and the process needs to be made as easy to access as possible. Its no use making initiatives if the public aren't on side. It's also time we had a proper debate about whether an opt-out system is a good idea for our country without letting wild emotions drive us off course. We need to remember the rights and feelings of the donors, their families and the people who desperately need these transplants.
Organ donation is miraculous, and we need to make it as available as possible. And in the hope that this will do a little bit of good in the world, take a few seconds to sign up here:
It doesn't take long and while it might be scary to think about death, it's a whole lot scarier to need a transplant and not be able to get one.

No comments: