Figures for 2013 released last month show a rise of over 13% in the number of people donating organs, following a push by the NHS Blood and Transplant unit to improve the rate of organ donation in the UK. However, it reports that
“there has been little change in our attitude to donation over the past few years. It is still not something we would all be proud to do.”
The difficulty lies with what Matthew Parris described as “the cult of the corpse”, which leads the bereaved to believing that their loved one remains linked in some way to the body left behind.
Parris notes that many religions, through history, have been led by primitive beliefs in the inseparability of body and soul. Of course once one believes that the soul somehow lingers, it becomes difficult to accept any interference with the body.
In 2013 58.6% of families approached in the UK about donation agreed to donate, compared to 56.5% in 2012. This marks painfully slow progress towards the NHSBT target of 80% by 2020.
So now is the time to make your own feelings clear. If you believe that your body should remain intact (so far as possible) until the point of cremation or burial, then your wishes should be respected.
But if you look at the numbers of people dying whilst awaiting transplants, competing for the few available organs, and think you would be proud to help, the best course is both to make your decision clear by registering with NHSBT, and to discuss your wishes with your nearest and dearest. As NHSBT confirm:
“Families are more likely to consent to, or authorise, donation when the express wish of their loved one is known. Also, importantly, making your decision known can remove the burden of your families having to guess at a difficult time.”
In Parris’s words:
“We should end our irrational reverence for dead bodies. It would free our spirits and help the sick to live”
NHSBT Organ Donation
Matthew Parris Article