Regular readers of this blog will know of my total rejection of the idea that our organ donation system should be changed from one based on opting-in on the basis of 'informed consent' to one based on 'opting-out on the basis of 'presumed consent'. This implacable opposition is driven by study of evidence, and extensive discussion with experts, which informs us that such a change will produce no more donated organs. There are strong ethical grounds for opposition as well. I steer clear of this because in our increasingly secular society, ethical argument is a negative. Depressing I know - but the reality. What the Welsh Gov't intends to enact, shockingly supported by the BMA, is tragic, and will do nothing but harm. That a Welsh Gov't can behave in this way has damaged my faith in devolution.
But the point of this post is 'celebration' about the great increase in organ donation in the UK over the last five years that has been in the news today. The number of organs donated has increased by 50% - with particularly large increases in Scotland and N Ireland. There's been only a very disappointing increase in Wales. Perhaps the focus has been elsewhere. Whatever, we need to look back on what has happened.
Around 2005/6, then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, decided that his Gov't should develop a strategy to increase organ donation. He believed 'presumed consent' was the way forward, and established an Organ Donation Taskforce to prepare a major report (reports actually) - fully expecting a supportive recommendation. But the Taskforce, chaired by the outstanding Elizabeth Buggins, after careful detailed consideration. recommended against 'presumed consent'. It made lots of other recommendations as well, based on better identification of donors, improving co-ordination at hospitals, training of specialist donation nurses, improving care of donors, and increasing number of organs per donor. The target set was to increase number of donors by 50% over 5 years. To Gordon Brown's great credit, these recommendations were accepted. And its been a great success.
There remains a lot more to do. The demand is increasing - partly because improving surgical skills are making more organ transplantation possible. We need a massive 'education' drive, based on 'Tell your next of kin your wishes'. Just talk about it with the family one morning over the breakfast table. We have to bring the refusal rate by next of kin down, particularly amongst BME communities. My opinion is that we need to reach a position where every potential donor's next of kin in approached by a specialist nurse. Butfor today, lets just celebrate what's been achieved. A great British success story for organ donation.