There's quite a fuss going on right now over a Dutch TV show that has proved to be a hoax, the Big Donor Show
in which an actress posed as a terminally ill woman interviewing three candidates to see which one most deserves to get one of her kidneys. I'm not intending to discuss that here, though you can read a thoughtful discussion of it here
. I'll just say that I find the idea extremely unpleasant and feel that there are better ways of raising the profile of organ donation. I'd rather talk about organ donation itself.
Like many people, I'd heard of it but not really thought about it much. ladyvivien
changed that. Her mother has been the recipient of a donated kidney and she is extremely passionate about organ donation issues. There was a proposal at the time that organ donation should be made an opt-out system
in the UK, so that unless people deliberately opted out they would be on the organ donation register. In case anyone reading this is not aware, there is a terrible shortage of organ donors. ladyvivien
was in favour of the bill, which didn't pass. I wasn't, because while I do feel that something dramatic needs to be done to create a large enough pool of organ donors, I don't feel that your body belongs to the state and I believe that it should be a choice whether or not to be a donor. The system I envisage as ideal would present people with the opportunity to sign up as organ donors, for example asking anyone who registered with a doctor's surgery or got a driving licence (which would cover the vast majority of the population between them), and by this I mean giving them a form that made them tick a yes or no box, not just having leaflets sitting around the surgery. This would, I hope, increase the pool to a large enough size without forcing anyone, since many people, most I think, would in fact agree if they were asked, they're just not asked. And since few people really want to think about the possibility of their own death, let alone in gory detail (who wants to think about having their eyes removed?), people aren't that likely to go out of their way to sign up, they'll just avoid the topic while being vaguely in favour of it.
I signed up a while later, I think it didn't happen until something else prodded me and I'd spent a couple of years meaning to get around to it when there were the appropriate forms available. I signed up online in the end, which may be done at this link
. I later proceeded to tell my parents about this in a way which I wouldn't suggest following. It was when I was reading up on human sacrifice for an essay on Titus Andronicus
, in which a defeated enemy is sacrificed at the beginning of the play, and started wondering whether the Romans ever practised human sacrifice. My stepfather's a history nut, so I rang my parents to ask, and all this reading about removal of body parts reminded me that I needed to tell them I was on the organ donation register. My mother answered the phone, and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi, darling, how are you? Is C-- there? By the way, I'm signed up as an organ donor.
My mother [not taken it in yet]: Er, yes, here he is.
[Fascinating conversation in which C-- and I conclude that no, the Romans did not practise human sacrifice, and thus Titus' sacrifice of Alarbus was way out of line.]
C--: Lovely talking to you, I'll give you back to your mother now.
Mother: What the hell do you mean you're signed up as an organ donor?
This might not have been the best way to broach the subject. Thankfully we got it straightened out in the end, and while my mother is one of the people who really doesn't want to think about the whole topic, she respects my decision.
So anyway, however the topic is brought to light, I'd urge anyone who hasn't signed up as a donor already to think about it deeply, and if you decide that you wish to sign up, get around to it now - and then tell your next of kin in a suitable manner.