Today was....strange. Good but strange. I am fairly sure you have all seen the headlines by now (if not where have you been) but I think this article by the Times talks about it all rather well.
Anyway, Sir Liam Donaldson being due to announce his support of the proposed opt-out system today obviously triggered national debate about organ donation and transplantation.
I received several phone calls yesterday and consequently found myself signed up to two GMTV appearances and a channel 5 piece. A being rather more sensible than me pointed out that since my pickup would be at 5am, I should get an early night. Oh those fatal words; as soon as you know you need to get a decent amount of sleep, the very notion of sleep becomes completely implausible. Midnight came and went. I was lying in bed with my eyes squeezed shut, like a child when they know they will be in trouble if caught awake and surely the tighter one closes their eyes the more realistic the slumber.
Next thing I know, the phone is ringing. It is my mother, panicked after knocking gingerly on the door for 5 minutes with no response. After a few hazy seconds I realise I have slept through my alarm. Three times. With the car due to arrive any minute I jumped out of bed and flung my clothes on, before attempting a calm and sophisticated walk (complete with crazymadbedhair) to the car. Thank god for make up artists is all I can say.
I think today is the first day I have ever felt properly vaguely famous. Or truly infamous anyway, depending on how you look at it. We pulled up and entered the building, along with another guest who arrived at the same time. The lady at reception greeted me with a cry of delight and a hug, exclaiming how well I looked, before escorting us through to the main area and the green room. There the lovely lady who is always busy organizing everything from the green room greeted me with another hug, again telling me that I looked wonderful. As I sat down and she disappeared to do something, my fellow guest asked gingerly “excuse me but I have to ask, who ARE you? Everyone knows you!” stifling a huge grin, I explained that I am not famous in any way shape or form, merely what might be considered a regular on there (mind you remembering me could have something to do with my entourage of tubing cylinders and wheelchairs I used to arrive with). As the presenters wandered past they would come and say hello, ask what I had been up to, and were generally all really friendly. Another guest arrived and smiled at me, so I smiled back, so she timidly said she had seen me on the telly last week and that I looked really well and she hoped I was feeling good. It was all so surreal, I am under no illusions that it was anything but my high profile...ness over the last week or so but still it was rather fun!
The interviews themselves were some of the more taxing I have ever had to do. This is because I wasn’t talking about me (my favourite subject) well I was but in relation to the opt-out system, which is incredibly complex, which I have a lot of differing thoughts and opinions on, and which is very hard to sum up in a 3 minute interview. The assumption was that I would be 100% behind the idea, but I am a little more cautious than that. So here are my full thoughts, or what I tried to get across.
In principal, the idea of an opt-out system is a logical one. The biggest cause of people not signing onto the register at present is apathy. This is proven as 90% people support organ donation but only 23% are on the organ donor register. This huge discrepancy demonstrates that the current system with the amount of publicity and education presently available is not working. The number of people awaiting for transplant is steadily increasing, as is the number of people dying on the waiting list, so something needs to be done.
I have a few concerns with opt-out. Interestingly, not with the moral ethics of it. This is because what we are talking about is called the soft-option, where relatives would still be consulted as to whether they believe there is any reason that person had wanted to opt out. Also if we were to change system, there would be so much awareness raised through media coverage and publicity campaigns that unless you lived in a remote cave you would not be able to miss the new system coming into place. Think about how much publicity there was for England going smoke free. I feel that people who definitely wanted to opt out would be more covered, as there would be a specific statement saying “no I do not want to donate” rather than at present where you just don’t happen to be on the register, this could be because of preference but it could also be taken as apathy.
I do not however think switching to opt-out would be the be all and end all, the finite solution, You cannot merely change over a system without putting into place all the other changes which would need to come with it. The key for me: education education education. I have always believed that if people do not understand a cause, why on earth would they support it. This was one of the reasons I got into public speaking for the CF Trust, I don’t think you can ask people to give money and not explain just why the money should be given. More awareness needs to be raised about organ donation, but in much more depth and detail. It should be taught in schools, the ideas, the principals, the facts, the choices. Information needs to be more prominent and more freely available. And of course all of this needs….money. Which brings me onto exactly that point; or as Oli so succinctly put it, investment in infrastructure.
I really could go on and on (you can see why I had so much difficulty summing up my opinions in 3 minutes now can’t you!) but I think I will shut up and go to bed instead. I am rather tired after gallivanting round London all day. But what a great day it has been, with most coverage being good (although some absolutely shocking misconceptions revealed both by journalists and audience/participants.) and hopefully if nothing else, today has made people think. I heard the comment more than once that someone dies every day whilst waiting for a transplant. Something has to change, needless deaths, they can be stopped...