13 January 2008

Presumed Consent: Gordon Gets It Right

I suspect that I am not at one with my own party on this issue, but the noises that Gordon is making about changing the organ donor system to one of presumed consent is a step in the right direction.

I have a kidney disease (IgA Nephropathy if you need to know), although I am one of the fortunate ones who has suffered very few effects from it, but it has meant that I have looked at and commented on presumed consent for many, many years.

Life on kidney dialysis is not easy; kidney patients' lives revolve around the desire for and anticipation of a transplant. Coupled with that is a a life dominated by the routine of dialysis and an incredibly strict diet - a diet which is the difference between life and death. But at the forefront of their thinking is the desperate hope that they will get "that" phone call tellng them that a donor kidney has been found.

For parents of children with renal failure it is even worse, not only do their lives revolve absolutely around the child (often at the expense of other children) but they suffer the trauma of seeing their children suffering from arrested growth, educational underachievement because of time away from school, and getting them to understand exactly why they cannot drink when they are thirsty or why they can't eat what their friends do. Of course any parent would do all of this, and more, for their child - but the failings of our system of consent means that most parents and children have to suffer this trauma for a far longer time than they should - despite even though the vast majority of people happily say they would donate their organs and many people die and are buried without having their wish to donate identified and fulfilled.

Unfortunately, many kidney patients don't get that far and the all-too-long wait for a transplant means more people die as a result of kidney failure than should. Making transplants more available, getting patients to a point where they can move forwards with their lives sooner rather than later has to be the right thing to do.

I have to also add that if you read the views of families of donors, they almost unanimously say the knowledge that their loved ones have helped others to live after their death is very comforting.

Sceptics like Iain Dale see this as a diminution of individual freedoms. I am not convinced by this because the final say on whether organs are used still rests with next of kin, presumed consent just helps with this process. My one concern is that Brown's approach seems to be about saving money (although this could just be how certain aspects of the media are portraying it), this decision is too important for that, the debate must revolve around the ethics involved and not about how much money it would save.

The most important aspect of this is not just that you should consider registering as a donor (which you can do here), but making sure you have a discussion with loved ones about your wishes in the unfortunate event of your death. If your instinct is to say that you would not want to donate your organs, just have a think about whether you would willingly accept an organ if you needed one.



Anonymous Lee Griffin said...

I just wanted to say it's great to see someone looking at the subject of the debate rather than it's opening of a chance to attack the government. I think it would be tragic if what essentially amounts to selfish pride over personal choice on this matter stands in the way of saving many more lives in this country.

9:57 AM  

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