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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

We can't bury our heads in the sand over organ donation

I can understand where Denise Robertson is coming from here, after all, we Brits are well known for our stiff upper lip and not wanting to discuss such issues as death. But at the same time, is that a good enough excuse to stop us saving potentially hundreds of people's lives on the transplant waiting list?

Not so long ago this very issue was on the Welsh political agenda, with the Assembly's Health Committee rejection of the idea of introducing presumed consent for organ donation, in the near future. The reason for the rejection - the committee did not believe that it is currently the most urgent priority and would act as a “distraction”.

BMA Cymru Wales has campaigned for presumed consent for organ donation for some time now.
There is little doubt that a system of presumed consent would produce a far higher potential donor rate than at present, which is far too low at 22%. Experience of other European countries that have introduced presumed consent have demonstrated this. Some 400 people in Wales are still waiting for transplants and one person dies each day in the UK, waiting. The committee has missed an opportunity to shorten the delay for those people waiting desperately for a transplant.

As Denise Robertson herself points out "Every year almost 1,000 people die, either while on the waiting list, or having become so ill they are no longer able to withstand transplant surgery. Each one of us could save a life, maybe more than one, by signing a donor form now and giving away something that one day we will have no use for. We could discuss it with those we love and encourage them to see it as a renewal and not a loss. "

I couldn't have put it better myself, so let's start having a frank and open discussion with our loved ones about presumed consent, however difficult that maybe. Surely it can't be any more difficult than the long and anxious wait for people on the organ donor transplant list?

You can register online for organ donation and the UK Transplant website also gives a lot of useful information to help you decide and to use in discussions with loved ones. As I've already said, it is so important we involve our family, friends and loved ones in our decision - as they would be the ones left to ensure our wishes are met - which is never easy - so we all owe it to them to make sure they are involved in such an important decision.

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