Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Organ Donations - Consent or Presumed Consent?

This story about the Chief Medical Officer for England suggesting that we move from consent driven organ donation to presumed consent concerns me.

I carry (I think) an organ donor card. I have since I was very young and first understood what organ donation was and what it meant. I have always felt very strongly that should anything happen to me I very much want my organs to be donated. I have also warned my family that should this not happen I will haunt them - and not in a good way.

This has always been my choice. I know that not everyone in my family feels the same way and I know that others just don't know how they feel about it. That's fine. If (and I pray I'm never) in the situation where I have to make such a decision I hope that I will always respect the feelings of my family members.

I am really concerned about the idea of presumed consent and how this could develop. Presumed consent takes the decision away from the individual and their family about their body. I accept that as suggested there is an opt-out option, but how likely are people to actually find out how to opt-out and do so? People never think that dreadful things will happen to them and won't therefore prepare. Hence the lack of people with donor cards despite the estimated 70% of the population who would be willing to donate organs.

And if consent is presumed does this mean that organ harvest will become a consideration in treatment? Will families be rail-roaded into making decisions about turning off life support as the state already has a call on the body parts?

Surely there are better ways to increase proactive organ donation? A first step would be to ensure that inclusion on the register was binding. As far as I know it currently isn't. Increase awareness of need for organ donation, make it easier to sign up to be a donor - have cards in every library and every supermarket in the country.

Let's make sure that a rise in proactive consent negates the need for the government to take away yet another of our civil liberties - the right to control our own bodies.

If you haven't already registered and do want to - sign up here.


Julie Hepburn said...

Hi Louise. I understand where you are coming from, and well done for highlighting this sensitive but important issue. However, I do support presumption in favour of donation, on the condition of a well-publicised and accessible avenue through which people can opt out. Many people I have spoken to over the years are rather ambivalent about organ donation, and wouldn't be motivated to either register for donation or conversely to opt out of a system of presumed consent. These are the people we need to be targeting and I can see no more effective way than a system of presumed consent to achieve it.

BellgroveBelle said...

Good post.

From previous experience dealing with people with very strong beliefs, I'm convinced the people who very definitely don't want to donate their organs will be more inclined to take action; therefore that's probably the more productive way to go.

From a purely logical point of view, my body's not going to do me any good when I'm deid; if there's anything salvageable, folk are very welcome to what's left!