Organ donation - John C. Kirk
Sep. 1st, 2006
12:02 am - Organ donation
Looking at the BBC website, I see that the rules are about to change (tomorrow) regarding organ donation. From my point of view, the most significant change is that relatives will no longer be able to override the wishes of the deceased person, e.g. if I register as a donor then my next of kin can't turn around to the doctors after I'm dead and say "No, I won't have you cutting up John's body, leave him alone!" I personally think that this move is long overdue, so I'm wholeheartedly in favour of it. There was an advertising campaign a while back, showing a little girl in a hospital bed opening a gift-wrapped box which turned out to be empty, and the basic message was "Being a donor is good, but if you don't tell your family then it could turn out to be an empty gift". I think it's still a good idea to tell your family about your preference, rather than springing this on them as a last minute surprise, but it shouldn't be a legal requirement.
In fairness, I can understand why some relatives do get twitchy about this, particularly when the decision needs to be made at a traumatic time. My grandfather died when I was 11, and I didn't like the idea of his body being cremated. However, this was just an emotional reaction, rather than something that I'd carefully thought through; on an emotional level, the idea of a loved one's body being eaten by worms isn't very appealing either. I can also appreciate why some people get paranoid about the thought of surgeons letting them die in order to get a fresh supply of spare parts, even though I don't actually see that as a risk.
For the record, I am registered as an organ donor, so I'm quite happy for my body to be sliced and diced once I'm dead. (I'm also registered as a bone marrow donor via the NBS, although I'm not registered as a living kidney donor.) Basically, I'm with the Klingons on this one: "The body after death is just an empty shell - treat it as such." I did recently contact the London Anatomy Office about whole body donation, but unfortunately I'm ineligible on the basis that I'm an organ donor (although "you can donate the corneas of your eyes and still donate your body for anatomical examination"). That seems like a bit of a silly restriction to me; surely it would make sense to take out the useful organs for people who need them, and then let medical students practice removing my appendix with what's left (before they have to do it on a live patient)? Ah well, never mind; in lieu of that, my vote would be to take what's needed and burn the rest, then plant a tree rather than having an actual grave.
Looking to the future, I'd like to see the country move towards an opt-out system for organ donation, rather than opt-in. If people do feel strongly about preserving their body intact (for whatever reason) then that's fair enough, but I think that apathy should be channelled in a positive direction.
While I'm in a slightly morbid mood, something for my friends to be aware of - I have a purple Cadbury's tin in my flat which contains various important documents (e.g. my will and life insurance paperwork). So, if I do wind up dead, please contact whoever the spare keyholder is so that you can get at it. (If you're close enough to me to need access then you should already know who that person is.)