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‘An issue close to our hearts’

26 February 2016

PARISHES are being encouraged by the General Synod to promote blood and organ donation.

Introducing a debate on a diocesan-synod motion from West Yorkshire & the Dales, the Revd Paul Cartwright urged Synod members to visit the fleshandblood.org website to see the resources available.

He explained that the NHS organ-donor registration had been amended recently to allow anybody to register to donate, to register not to donate, or to register to nominate somebody to make that decision. It was “an issue close to our hearts”.

He said: “We recognise Jesus Christ giving his body and blood to make a living sacrifice. It is the very least that we can do to help people in need.”

Before ordination, he had served as a police officer and a family-liaison officer who had to visit relatives of victims of road-traffic accidents and help them to prepare for the deaths of their loved ones. “Of course, this has now changed, and it is enough for the person to give permission whilst they are alive; but, for some, they had not thought about it until that moment when they had added stress and grief in their lives.”

He said that, “for these families, I can tell you with confidence that many lives were transformed, and this applied not only to those who had been waiting for an organ donation, but also to the families who took the decision to donate their loved one’s tissue or organs, as they gained comfort from their decision.”

He explained that he had been diagnosed with an acute fast-acting leukaemia in 2008, and had received blood and blood products that meant that he had “been able to spend seven extra years” with his family. “The blood products that I received saved my life, and, to be honest, I’m unable to find the words to thank those who kindly donated the blood and platelets that saved me; and so I thank God every day for them.”

He said that there was a particular issue to encourage people from minority-ethnic backgrounds to donate blood and register for organ donation, to help people with rare blood types or tissue-matching needs. “Within our parishes, we have a wide diversity of people,” he said. “Surely we can grasp this opportunity to really show God’s love for our world, and use the abundance of resources that we have to change and save lives.”

John Freeman (Chester) supported the motion and urged members to talk to their GPs about registering for organ donation as well as blood donation.

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who is the lead bishop on health care, said that the motion represented the first time that the NHS and the Church had worked so closely on a campaign, and it had been an “enormous success”. He said: “I know of no theological reason why Christians should hold back on organ and blood donation, and give back a little of what we have been so generously given by our Creator.”

Helen Lamb (Ely) supported the motion; but said that it was missing something — an opportunity not only for generosity, sacrificial giving that followed Jesus’s model, but also to explain the model of Jesus: not only did he have the marks of nails through him, but he was able to walk through walls. “I won’t need this body, because God has a better one in store for me,” she said.

Lucy Docherty (Portsmouth) said that she had just had a text from a former Synod member encouraging her to talk about altruistic kidney donation. “This is not very well known”, she said, “but it is worth mentioning it now, so we can be thinking about it and mentioning it to our family and friends.”

She also spoke about a neighbour who had a serious heart problem. He had been expected to die, but, after a transplant, he was now fit enough “to climb trees”.

The Revd James Pitkin (Winchester) said that his wife worked as a hospital chaplain, and was often involved in talking with families as they consider organ donation. “It is so important for them to have had a conversation prior to this point,” he said.

The Revd David Craven (Carlisle) explained that his mother-in-law was waiting for a bone marrow transplant, and had to go to hospital regularly for extensive blood transfusions. Just after Christmas, he received a phone call telling him that a member of his family, John, had suffered a serious haemorrhage.

He went to give the last rites, and a nurse explained that John had given instructions that he wanted to donate his organs. “This was something that the family didn’t have to talk about at that time,” he said, “because it had all been talked about in advance.”

He said: “I am going to go from this Synod and register as an organ donor in light of the debate that has taken place this afternoon.”

The vice-chair of the House of Laity, Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield), said that “actions speak louder than words,” and, while some could not donate, all members could be advocates. She urged them to take it back to diocesan synods and parishes. “Don’t just say you support this motion, but let’s have action from each and every one of us Synod members.”

Philip Geldard (Manchester) spoke about dialysis patients who had to go into hospital three times a week. “It reduces their general quality of life, and there are other general health issues that go along with it,” he said, as he urged Synod members to donate a kidney if they were ever asked to do so.

A consultant surgeon, Jane Patterson (Sheffield), said that she had seen many cases in which “people’s donated blood had made a difference.” There was in today’s culture increasing incredulity that every human being died. “By talking about donation we talk about life-and-death situations,” she said.


The Synod agreed the motion:

That this Synod call on all Church of England parishes to encourage their members to consider, as part of their Christian giving:

(a) Becoming blood donors; and

(b) Registering as organ donors and making their wishes known to their families

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