Sunday, January 04, 2009

NHS Organ Donations

Just a month or so back there was some national press and some day time TV chit chat about changing the current laws on Organ Donations in the UK. The argument was on whether, when you die your organs should automatically become available should a patient need them. The idea being to reverse the Donor Card Scheme, so that instead of carrying a card to declare that your organs can be used, an individual should instead opt out of having their organs donated.
I seem to recall there were some impassioned pleas from those people who had lost family members due to a lack of available organs, and then they explained that if it was your loved one dying, and you knew that there was an available organ you would be just as insistent that those organs should be available.

It is a debate that has two contrasting and emotive viewpoints. I hear and understand the argument for a rule change here, but I respectfully disagree. To change the rules to the opt-out system is to grant the State control and ultimately ownership of our bodies and our organs. Initial opt-out schemes would inevitably become regulated as more people opted out and the debate that would follow would surely lead to opt-out based on prescribed criteria, not on an individual’s wishes.

I would also be personally distressed to find myself in an intensive care unit, after some hyperthetical unforeseen accident and tragedy; could I as a patient know conclusively that the medical practitioners charged with my care are doing everything possible to save my life? Is it possible that some Doctors would make decisions differently in the care of very ill patients based on the viability of organ donation?

Please see this article from today’s Times, by Health Editor Sarah-Kate Templeton. It seems that the organs from 50 NHS donors have been sold to foreign patients who have paid up to £75,000 for each private transplant all in the past two years. Some of these liver transplants took place in NHS hospitals, despite 8,000 Brits being on the organ transplant list, and 260 waiting for Livers.

The article makes known that 40 Patients from Greece & Cyprus received their liver transplants in the UK, paid for by their national governments. But donated Livers, deemed unsuitable for use on UK patients were also given to people from Libya, The United Arab Emirates, China and Israel. As the work is carried out privately, in NHS hospitals though, the surgeons who carry out the operations receive a fee.

Why is this allowed to happen? It is of course British Interpretation of European Law. EU Citizens are largely treated in the UK by the NHS the same as UK citizens.
It is probably evident that my understanding of the law is not up to that of NHS lawyers, and perhaps somebody could enlighten me here. Why are we selling organs when we have so many people here seeking replacement organs?

Where is the NHS (and by extension the Government) authorised to profit from the donations scheme. When I, agreed to donate my organs I was under the impression that they would be made available if required, to a British recipient, and that they were free to that person that needed them. I was not aware that having given my consent that they could be sold for a profit. I may be wrong, but I don’t imagine that the donor’s families received any of that money? Am I crazy, or was that not the expectation of others?? I would guess it is, as there is nothing here to suggest otherwise.

Don’t bother writing to your MP. I doubt this can be reversed in Westminster.

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