Now, Gentle Readers, don’t log off when you read on. You see, I’m going to talk about death. And, while we don’t want to think about death, we certainly don’t want to think about what might happen after it.
But I’m in the unenviable position (as you’ll see later) of having a more personal involvement. While I was already an advocate of the subject, I’ve an even more pressing reason to be a supporter now. And while others who feel similarly sometimes do end up as potential donors following their unfortunate demise, their wishes are sometimes still not acted upon.
In 2010, relatives of promised donors – people who had signed up to donate their organs while they were alive – blocked 547 transplants which could have helped or saved around 1,200 people.
Since the Welsh NHS made the organ donor list ‘opt-out’ as opposed to ‘opt-in’ back in December, some concern has arisen regarding the number of families throughout the UK who are disregarding loved ones’ wishes and refusing the donation of their organs.
And this is why I feel so passionately that this is completely and utterly WRONG. Why? Well, at the relatively young age of 51, I have Nephrotic Syndrome, causing chronic and severe kidney damage which is incurable, resistant to chemotherapy, and apart from dialysis, I could well be facing end-stage renal failure. And the need for a transplant. So now you know.
I understand that as a topic, organ donation remains a bit morbid, squeamish and uncomfortable, unfortunately this misunderstanding and stubborn fingers-in-ears approach is having a massively negative impact upon thousands of lives. So, organ donation – we need to talk about it.
Let’s face it – there’s nothing like the term ‘organ harvesting’ to perpetuate a culture of mystery and fear. When we speak of ‘harvesting’ organs we also tend to see this as dehumanising the individual, which is understandably a difficult idea for the families of prospective donors.
But it doesn’t matter. In life these people were fiercely loved individuals with sparkling personalities, and families want to remember them as just that. But allowing their organs and associated body parts to help another person survive doesn’t make them any less them. If anything, doesn’t that make their life and lasting memory all the greater and even more worth celebrating?
To reach out a hand in death and literally give someone you’ve never met in life is surely one of the greatest achievements anyone can achieve. To do something so utterly unselfish and miraculous makes you no less you and your loved one no less them.
Similarly, to block someone’s last wishes is particularly sad, as when you do, you are changing a legacy they thought they were going to leave. To support and allow someone to donate their organs after death is to do little more than offer them and their desires the respect they presumably commanded in life. It may be hard – but it’s a supremely loving act to do so.
To deny them donation is also to unintentionally affect a myriad of people who you will never know and leave them slightly, and sometimes disastrously, for the worse.
You might want to all pause for just five minutes once in your hopefully very long and healthy lives to really consider what your wishes would be after death. If we are more open with our families, and with ourselves, we can perhaps work toward a time when people don’t languish on waiting lists for years at a time, before dying from the need of a vital organ.
Like me, perhaps. So just mull it over, OK?