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‘Christians have a mandate to heal’

02 November 2012


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 transplant.

"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 cent.

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 be strengthened.

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 perceived merit".

The NHSBT aims to produce a new strategy by April 2013.


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