Friday, 26 June 2009

This is altruism

Wonderful article by Jeremy Laurance in The Independent on Wednesday (and covered elsewhere, including Thursday’s “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4), about the man who gave up his kidney to a total stranger. This is one of 15 such donations last year – an increase of 50% on the previous year. The majority of organ donations come from people who have signed a donor card to donate organs after death – just over two thirds. A significant number come from living donors who are relatives or close friends of the recipient. The numbers who donate to a total stranger are small but the altruism is heroic.

As you will see from an earlier blog, I am a member of the Human Tissue Authority which regulates organ donation. As Vicki Chapman, Director of Policy and Strategy at the HTA, said: "It is remarkable to see an increase in the number of people who want to donate a kidney to someone they do not know. We expected to see a small number of cases when we first started approving this type of transplant but we did not expect to see the number rise so significantly after just one year."

One of the requirements is that all cases of altruistic non-directed donations (i.e. a living person is donating an organ and they do not know who will receive it) are referred to a panel as the final part of the process (see the HTA website for more information). All Authority members can act as panel members and we receive training to help us. I have had the privilege to sit on several panels and I am always humbled that someone is prepared to do this. (NB you mean donate, rather than be prepared to sit on a panel...worth being specific).

Given most of the depressing commentary on human behaviour in our national press – this gives us pause for thought (and quiet celebration) – especially when you consider the 1,000 people who will die this year because of lack of a donor.

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