Advances in medical knowledge, and expertise, led to an increase in life saving surgery. Tough economic times, added to these advances, have put a strain of health services, such as the NHS in the UK. Patient’s expectations are higher, but the service cannot always meet the demand.
Organ donation raises many concerns, ethically and morally. However, consider that you are the patient desperately in need of a liver, a heart or a kidney; an organ that could improve your quality of life, and health, immeasurably; perhaps an organ donation that could save your life. The medical knowledge is ineffective without donors.
Western countries each have their own procedures, regarding organ donations. The USA and UK operate their own systems.
As the UK currently has the State funded NHS, at the heart of its medical services, there are no direct fees. No bills for receiving a vital kidney or liver. No payment made for the 'gift' of a vital organ.
The 'volunteer' system worked quite well in the past but in the 21st Century it may be adding to shortages.
Blood donors in the UK donate blood for many reasons. One is not money. There is no pay, nor fee, for donating blood in Britain. Often people 'give blood', 'because we never know when we may need a transfusion'.
Non-payment to blood donors in the UK has kept stocks relatively healthy. The pitfalls of paying people to donate blood are obvious. A changing society however, and a greater need for blood and organ donations, has led to shortages. British citizens usually respond well to appeals for blood donors but organ donations are a different matter.
The organ donor scheme in the UK involved those who wished to donate an organ after death, carrying a 'donor card'. This card carries detail of your wishes. It is still possible that your next of kin may object or refuse after you are no longer around.
That is why discussing your wishes, whilst you are alive and well, is vital. The reasons why people prefer not to be an organ donor vary, and may include:
In 2008 the British government decided against changing the organ donation system to an opt-out service. Such a service would mean that it is presumed any of your organs after death can be used by the transplant service, unless you had opted out. The debate continues.
On July 2, 2013, the Welsh government announced that it hope to introduce major changes in its donation service:
The Human Transplantation Wales Bill was passed by the National Assembly for Wales on July 2nd 2013. We plan to bring this new law fully into effect in 2015. Until 2015, the current opt-in system will remain in place.
It is hoped that the change in Wales will prevent unnecessary deaths. Other parts of the UK may, or may not, follow suit. This of course raises more concerns. It would however mean that it was vital you registered your wishes.
Scotland as well as Wales are drawing up similar opt out plans which could be law by 2015, if not before.
The need for change
Whilst an opt-out system may scare many people, a change of thinking is necessary. If we are to utilise modern health advances, organs are needed for transplants. There is another alternative though, live organ donation.
Live organ donation
Live organ donations sometimes take place. Often it is a kidney transplant. If you are healthy a normal life should be possible with one kidney. Donating a kidney to a brother, sister, or son may be something you would consider, but what about to a total stranger?
21-year-old Daniel Broadhead has given a quarter of his liver to a stranger. This was a first for the UK, reported the BBC, early in 2013.
He did so for altruistic reasons.
A shortage of organs in the UK means that 'one in five people who need a liver transplant will die before a suitable one is found'. Alcoholic liver disease in the UK is widespread, according to the NHS. This means that many organ donors are needed.
Becoming a live donor does carry risks though. 21-year-old Daniel has survived the operation and any post-surgical complications but remember he is very young. Mental and physical health problems can follow a 'live donation'.
Our livers are able to regenerate but sometimes a donor may end up needing an organ transplant themselves. Other live donors in the UK have donated to family members, not a stranger. Daniel's liver was given to a 4 year-old boy. The surgery lasted hours. Daniel now has a huge scar. He has carried a donor card since the age of 16.
Whilst it is good to know that such 'heroes' still exist, is it time for a re-think?. Does the UK need an opt-out donor system?
(You can now register online to become a blood and, or, organ donor in the UK)