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Organ donation is a ‘Christian duty’: CofE response to NHS consultation

A Church of England response to a national consultation says people should make it their "Christian duty" to register as an organ donor - and suggests that they should take the time to tell their loved ones of their wishes.

A response by the Mission and Public Affairs (MPA) Council of the Church of England to the National Health Service Blood and Transplant Consultation on Organ Donation Post 2013 Strategy says: "The Church of England affirms that 'giving one's self and one's possessions voluntarily for the well being of others and without compulsion is a Christian duty of which organ donation is a striking example.'" *

It is available here: The MPA Council response reports that whilst "there are 18.9m people on the Organ Donor Register", "there are 1,000 people dying each year while on the transplant list". It notes that in 2011/12 "37 per cent of eligible donors resulted in transplants" with "the wishes of relatives often over-riding individual consent". By recommending a 'hard opt-in' donation policy "where consent given on the Organ Donor Register is treated in the same way as an Advanced Decision or clause in a Will", it rejects other options, such as 'opt-out' and 'mandated choice'.

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, said: "Christians have a mandate to heal, motivated by compassion, mercy, knowledge and ability - and this extends to organ donation. The Christian tradition both affirms the God-given value of human bodily life, and the principle of putting the needs of others before one's own needs."

In addition, to tackle the marked disparity between donor rates and transplant needs among minority ethnic communities (four per cent of kidney donors versus 22 per cent of recipients, for example), the response recommends "developing better ways of partnership working with representatives of minority ethnic communities and those organisations in which members from minority ethnic communities form a significant part and in which they play a full role".

In making a response on the subject of 'elective ventilation', the MPA Council document notes that this treatment "is not, medically, in the patient's best interests" and states that "it is unlikely that medical staff will have opportunities to seek patient consent".

The response, finally, rejects the idea of priority care for those on the organ donor register, as "it represents a clear breach of the principle that treatment is given solely on the basis of clinical need and not because of social or economic factors or on the basis of perceived merit".


Notes

* Church of England, Mission and Public Affairs Division: Response to the House of Lords EU Social Policy and Consumer Affairs sub-committee call for evidence: Inquiry into the EU Commission's Communication on organ donation and transplantation: policy actions at EU level, October 2007