Many UK Citizens Still Unaware Of The System

Thousands of UK residents  are still unaware of regulations surrounding the organ donation register. Under the current system in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland anyone who wants to donate their organs after death has to ‘opt in’, through the donor card scheme. Organ donation is not compulsory following death, but consent has to be registered.

Deemed Consent In Wales

If a person living in Wales doesn’t officially opt-out,  they will be regarded as having no objection to donation at death. But this soft opt-out is still triggering fierce debate in some quarters. Last June, Scotland said it would be introducing a similar system, known as presumed consent. In England, The British Medical Association has previously called for an opt-out system saying it was backed by almost two-thirds of the public. This is still under consideration.

Organ Donation And The Law

Two important laws currently govern organ donation and transplantation in the UK. These involve The  Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 and The Human Tissue Act 2004 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Though introduced as new legislation four years ago, the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 – came into effect in the principality on 1 December 2015, linked to a so called ‘deemed consent system’.

These differing systems can also potentially lead to the personal wishes of family members being over-ridden by those close to them, who perhaps weren’t informed of their intentions. As a consequence, this is causing some consternation among differing religious denominations and the public generally.

Individual Faith

So what of religious beliefs? The Sikh philosophy and teachings give credence to both  giving and putting others first. This act of ‘Seva’ or selfless service aims to give without reward, a core belief of any Sikh.  Islamic law emphasizes the preservation of human life. This general rule  has been used to support human organ donation  provided the benefit outweighs the personal cost. The Koran however, has nothing to refer to with some scholars having differing opinions. There are around three million Muslims in the UK of course. They also make up more than a fifth of Birmingham’s population. The Hindu faith cites the existence of life after death, and the ongoing process of rebirth. According to their teachings, The law of Karma decides which way the soul will go in the next life. Christians consider organ donation an act of love and a way of following Jesus’ example.

The Late Mr Om Parkash Sharma MBE, President, National Council of Hindu Temples has previously said: “Organ donation is in keeping with Hindu beliefs as it can help to save the life of others.” And more than seven years ago Sentamu Ebor, Archbishop of York, said: “The simple act of joining the donors’ register can help make the world of difference to those in need. I hope that everyone will consider whether they can give life to others after their own death.

Telling Statistics

Recent statistics show in the last nine months of 2017, there were 586 organ donors, with 20,000 people choosing to stay on the Organ Donor register.

A total of 505 registered donors could not be made available for transplant in the last five years because of objections from relatives. To this end The British Medical Association have made it clear they firmly encourage family members to respect the wishes of the deceased. If an individuals wishes aren’t known specially-trained healthcare professionals will approach the family for their authorisation to proceed, based on their knowledge of the potential donor.

Jayne Fisher, team manager for the Yorkshire Organ Donation Services Team and a former Bradford Royal Infirmary specialist nurse for organ donation, added: “Every day in this country, three people die in need of a transplant. Yet across the UK and Bradford, one in three adults haven’t considered organ donation, or decided whether they want to be an organ donor.

Those Against The Current System

The survey site YouGov has reported lots of people believing a deceased person’s body should not become the property of the state. One contributor said: “This issue is a  very sensitive one and I feel it should be entirely voluntary.”

Victoria from Staffordshire says: “Some of these choices are made by people on religious grounds, self-beliefs and their own morals. Just as we should not dictate how other people live, we should not dictate how they die”

The Register

The confidential NHS Organ Donor register is maintained by NHS Blood and Transplant. Donors can make their wishes known by either telling a close relative, writing in a will or document or by carrying a donor card.

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