Friday, 2 March 2012

The option of opting for Organ Donation

I couldn't help but notice that someone has ticked 'no' in my vote on the right of this blog asking people if they would like an 'opt-out' system or not. This is a subject of fascination for me.

An opt-out system is when you presume that everyone is happy to donate their organs in death unless they say otherwise (and 'opt-out'). 65% of people say they'd donate their organs but only 27% have got around to getting a donor card. The opt-out system is meant to capture that missing 40% or so of the population and reduce waiting lists for people awaiting transplants.

I actually had to research online to find what the arguments against this system could be. Mentally, my fizzes and whirrs weren't getting me any answers. The answer appears (if my research isn't missing something) to be philosophical.

The reason why, it appears the opt-out system is not appealing to some people is this. It is assuming an agreed consent by the population. But this necessarily includes people who can't make informed decisions such as mental patients, children or some of the elderly. The opt-out system, therefore, is viewed by our critics as a system that is making assumptions we're not allowed to make.

Sorry, what? Can't you just not take the organs from those people who don't have the mental ability to make informed decisions? Or do what we do in this type of circumstance for other decisions needing done, such as look to the person with the power of attorney?

The only other big argument out there is that moving to an opt-out system might provoke an anti-donation backlash where people throw their arms up in the air, get out on the streets and shout 'GIVE US OUR ORGANS BACK!' Well, not quite, but you'd imagine as much by the way some people talk about it online. Anyway, they think it might backfire with people withdrawing their support. Would it really though? Is it going to reduce the 27% of people who willingly sign up to get donor cards? It might, I suppose, risk a minor reduction in the 65% of people who say they'd donate, but we're only looking to get more than 27%. 100% is obviously going to take some time.

In the online debates, another supposed 'against' argument is that just moving to opt-out doesn't mean you immediately have more donations. ie. you also have to have a supporting system to facilitate the transplants. Is this a reason not to do it? Surely it's just a contextual remark. If opening a door doesn't have an immediate effect, does that mean you should keep it shut? Hell, I wait a heck of a long time for my Calippo to slip down to my tongue sometimes, but I don't give up just because I have to wait a while for it to arrive.

If you think the opt-out argument seems strong, then you'll be interested to see that 2/3 in a BBC poll of Welsh people voted for the system to be implemented in Wales. You'll also be interested to read that the deputy leader in Northern Ireland is calling for the system there too. (they might have a bit more to work on than just availability of organs though. Looks like they need more donated surgeons too.)

The answer, in my mind, to really reaching people on this subject is to ask people to put themselves in the position of someone who would die if they didn't get this organ - like me 2 years ago. In the debate in Ireland, one comment I picked up on was someone saying it 'should be a gift, not a duty'. But, if YOU needed a heart, or a lung, kidney or pancreas, would you be worrying about how the damn thing was wrapped, and presented to you, or would you- YOU- just want the thing straight up and quick while you're at it?

On my shingles update, this is now me. I have a mask. I have no white blood cells - ie. no defence. I'm a walking attraction for bugs, bacteria and infections. I inject myself with some incentive for my bone marrow to wake up and get cracking, but so far no cookies. Gotta stop the anti-viral drugs for the Shingles to get the blood cells back for good. Gotta keep the drugs going to stop the Shingles for good. Gotta... um. Not quite sure what I gotta do. But I'm not going to wear this mask for my party this weekend or I might be spending the next year trying to Getta me some more friends.

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