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Give blood and organs, Bishop urges

01 February 2013


THE Christian imperative to be generous "applies just as much to the blood that flows in our veins, and the organs that are such an intrinsic part of our bodies" as to our time and money, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, said on Monday.

He was speaking to launch the "fleshandblood" campaign, a two-year initiative between the NHS and Churches, including the Church of England, designed to encourage Christians to donate blood and join the organ-donor register. The Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, and Baptist Union, and others have all signed up, alongside the C of E.

Bishop Newcome, who is the lead bishop on health care, said that Christians "have a mandate to heal, motivated by compassion, mercy, knowledge and ability. Extending our understanding of the central Christian theme of generosity and stewardship to include blood and organ donation has the potential to tangibly transform the giver and the receiver."

The NHS estimates that an extra 225,000 blood donors are needed to meet demand, and reports that 1000 people die each year, waiting for a transplant. Also, the number of people dying in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs is falling.

In the autumn, the C of E Mission and Public Affairs Council, in a submission to the NHS Blood and Transplant consultation on organ donation, anticipated Bishop Newcome's sentiments, but opposed a shift to an "opt-out" system of donation as a "major intrusive shift in the state's relationship with its citizens" ( News, 2 November).

In 2011, Dr David W. Evans, a retired consultant in cardiology, and the Revd Dr Michael Banner, Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, expressed concern that donors might not be aware that they would still have a heartbeat and be breathing with the aid of a ventilator when their organs were removed: "a state very different from death as they may have envisaged it" ( Letters, 18 May 2011). These concerns were echoed in another letter from Dr David Hill, a retired consultant anaesthetist.

On Tuesday, a spokesman at Church House, said: "Having made diligent enquiries among properly qualified medical personnel who are members of the Church, we are satisfied that Dr Evans's views are not those of the great majority of practitioners, including those who are committed Christians."

NHS guidance for potential donors states that "organs are only removed for transplantation after a person has died. . . Death is confirmed in exactly the same way for people who donate organs as for those who do not."


Question of the Week: Do you agree that blood and organ donation is a Christian duty?

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