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.

23 comments:

inspiral said...

I have just read the article which you are referring to, and am absolutely apalled by the attitude shown...and the sheer ignorance, and arrogance, of the writer. I totally agree with your comments. I fully support organ donation myself. I have been a donor since childhood, and can think of no better gift I could give should my life be taken x

Gemma & Ralph said...

Just how wrong can one person be? He clearly has no experience or knowledge in the area and is just sharing his ill percieved opinions. People who make such assumptions without evidence are endangering the future of organ donation. Worrying to think people may decide against signing the register on reading this.

thelovehound said...

To cliche, it is clear the author of that article knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. You bet he'd take an organ if he needed it, otherwise he might lose the chance to stay alive and earn more money, the only thing he considers of value clearly.

@oli_rayner said...

I have only just seen this post but clearly it is still very relevant. I think Mr Whyte has probably spent too much time reading "Chicago School" economics textbooks and has broader fears about the world which cause him to take extreme positions. However, I do think some people have got the idea that registering as an Organ Donor may mean doctors won't try as hard to save them. In reality though this is not a reasonable concern and it would be a mistake not to register on this basis. In so many areas of professional life, there are concerns that the highest professional standards are not always met and doctors are not immune to this. In hospitals, doctors do not work in isolation and this, together with their professionalism, provides the most effective monitoring of standards. Doctors do really believe that their first aim is to save the patient's life and, only if that fails or is futile, would organ donation even be considered. There is a clear separation between the role of the clinicians looking after the person and those involved in organ donation. They are different people. At present, the clinicians (doctors, nurses and others) will decide, in discussion with the family, that further treatment is futile and only when this is agreed will enquiries be made as to whether the patient is a registered Organ Donor. At this point, the specialist nurse in organ donation will be contacted and any wishes of the potential donor ascertained, by looking on the Organ Donor Register or looking for a card and by asking the family. Then the nurse will discuss organ donation with the family. There are robust systems and controls in place and a number of professionals and family members involved in any decision.

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