Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Department of Health

Posted by Oli on Wednesday 3rd September, 2008

Live Life Then Give Life continued our assault on the corridors of power today as Emily and I went along to a lunchtime lecture at the Department of Health to talk about organ donation and the reasons behind it.

The talk was ostensibly to let the civil servants know the kind of policy issues they would have to address regarding organ donation in the coming months and years and was given by a lovely lady called Triona Norman, who had attended our Treasury talk and seen how great we were(!).  Emily and I, along with a friend from the Treasury, went along to give personal experiences and help to illustrate the difference a trannsplant can make.

It was also incredibly useful because we got the chance to meet and chat to Chris Rudge who is the new National Clinical Director for Transplant, otherwise known as the Transplant Tsar, who is in charge of implementing the changes recommended by the Organ Donor Taskforce report from last September.

Apart from the obvious bonuses of meeting and getting to know the Head Dude of transplant in the UK, it was fascinating to hear him talk and address many of the issues and common questions people have about organ donation and transplant.

As a national transplant charity, we often find that the same questions are fired at us constantly, mostly regarding our relation to the Spanish system.  It has been my personal position and the position of the charity as a whole, to point out to people that the Spanish system doesn’t excel simply because they follow a system of presumed consent, but rather because they have ensured a significant investment in the infrastructure needed for transplants, including staff training and – most significantly – a much larger number of intensive care beds than we have.

This is significant because the vast majority of organ donors die in intensive care, which means the more beds we have, the larger the pool of potential organ donors.  Interestingly, Chris Rudge also said that only around 20% of organ donors are victims of road traffic accidents.  Much more commonly, the cause of death is inter-cranial bleeding, more commonly known as a stroke, which can affect many young people as well as old.

The most significant part of Chris’ talk, however, was his reaction to the introduction of presumed consent. He is very keen to set up an investigation to see whether or not an Opt-Out system would actually increase the donor rate, or if other factors are more significant.  This is a breath of fresh air to me, as I’ve been saying since the recommendations came out that it’s not a given that presumed consent would increase the number of transplants.  It may increase the potential donor pool, but that’s not the same thing at all.

It’s great to get invited to talk at these events, because both Emily and I have learned from experience that making the issues personal makes and enormous difference in driving the points home to people.  But this was more of a bonus than usual, thanks to the chance to meet and chat with Chris Rudge and some of the people who actually have the power to make a difference.


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