Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jamie Whyte’s views (“Donating Organs could prove a costly decision”, Wednesday 15th February) sadden me. Whilst his misconceptions about organ donation are shocking, they are made slightly easier to understand after reading that he trusts his wife so little as to make sure his life insurance “pays out less if I die than the net present value of my likely future earnings” so as not to “put temptation in her way”. This lack of trust, even in those closest to him, perhaps goes a little way to explaining his views.

Mr Whyte, a senior fellow of the Cobden Centre, believes that signing the organ donor register “increases the chances that you will die”. He suggests that as a registered organ donor, doctors working to save your life will end care sooner, as the temptation of removing your organs will become too great. This shows a huge naivety about both the process and the premise of organ donation. He uses cold calculations – “If you are a donor, your death produces a net gain of three lives. If you are not, it delivers a net loss of one” – to support his absurd theory that the medical professionals attempting to save your life are really only after your organs.

When you are admitted to a hospital, having suffered great injury or severe illness, that hospital’s priority is you. No hospital wants to lose a patient – to put it in as cold and clinical a light as Mr Whyte does, it doesn’t look very good on their books to lose a patient, let alone all the moral, ethical and social reasons that people practise medicine. Medical professionals are there to treat their patients. There is no great conspiracy; they want to care for their patients, heal their patients, and enable their patients to return home.

I wonder if Mr Whyte knows that, statistically, he himself is more likely to need an organ transplant than to become a donor. Does he have a family? What if his wife or someone else he loved needed a transplant to save their life? I assume from his sentiments in this article that he would turn one down on moral grounds, and let them die. Three people die waiting for a transplant every single day, a figure which starkly contradicts the image he paints of a society where hospitals whip out people’s organs at the earliest possible opportunity.

People who become organ donors would have died regardless of whether they made that decision. The only difference is that in a moment of great tragedy, they have chosen to help others go on living. There is no greater gift, no greater legacy that someone can leave behind. I should know; I would have died in 2007 were it not for a generous stranger who I will never have the privilege of meeting.

I hope that Mr Whyte finds more trust and happiness in his life. I hope that City AM, who published such absurd views, also publish an article countering this opinionated piece with concrete facts. And I hope that people think properly about organ donation, look at the facts and discuss it with their families, before making a decision, perhaps one that could save nine lives after they have gone.