‘Christians have a mandate to heal’
ORGAN donation is a "striking example" of the Christian duty of
"giving one's self and one's possessions voluntarily for the
well-being of others", the Mission and Public Affairs (MPA) Council
of the Church of England has said.
Its submission to the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)
consultation on organ donation post-2013, however, rejects the
suggestion that people on the organ-donor register could become
priority recipients for organs if they subsequently require a
"Christians have a mandate to heal, motivated by compassion,
mercy, knowledge, and ability," the submission reads. "The
Christian tradition both affirms the God-given value of human
bodily life and the principle of putting the needs of others before
one's own needs."
There are 18.9 million people - 30 per cent of the population -
on the organ-donor register in the UK. Currently, 1000 people die
each year while on the transplant list. The family-refusal rate for
organ donation in the UK is one of the highest in Europe, at 45 per
The consultation suggests reforms, including changing the system
to presumed consent unless a person has "opted out"; withdrawing
life-sustaining treatments earlier in critical-care units and
emergency departments; and making people on the organ-donor
register priority recipients for organs.
The MPA Council response argues that the shift to an opt-out
system would represent a "major intrusive shift in the state's
relationship with its citizens", for which an "overwhelming case"
that "does not, as yet, exist" would need to be made. More could be
done, it suggests, to make more effective use of the 19 million
potential donors already listed, including more consistent testing
of brain death, greater referrals after cardiac death, and getting
specialist nurses to approach families to secure consent.
Individual consent, which would override family consent, could also
With regard to end-of-life protocols, the response emphasises
the principle that doctors must act only in what they consider to
be a patient's best interests. The suggestion about listed donors
being given priority represents "a clear breach of the principle
that treatment is given solely on the basis of clinical need, and
not because of social or economic factors, or on the basis of
The NHSBT aims to produce a new strategy by April 2013.