Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let 6th formers learn about Organ Donation

Have attached my name to a Motion to bring in a Bill called 'Blood, Organ and Bone Marrow Donation (Education)'.  The motion is Seema Malhotra's, a new and talented Labour MP.  I was pleased that Seema asked me to become involved. Its always better if Private Member's Bills have cross-party support.  The reality is that this bill is unlikely to become law, but it enables Seema (and me) to raise awareness of a an issue that is important to both of us.

As regular visitors to this blog will know, promoting organ donation is one of my many obsessions. I want Gov'ts to encourage more people to donate their organs. The key to increasing organ donation is to encourage everyone to tell their next of kin of their support - which is a far more effective way of improving organ donation than the misguided plans of the Welsh Gov't to change the donation system in Wales to one based on opting out rather than opting in - a dreadful mistake in my opinion. There is no evidence whatsoever that this change will improve the position - and there's fear at the Dep't of Health that it will do real harm. What would make a difference is educating people during school years ensuring that organ donation is a part of life that we all understand and appreciate - and that its important their next of kin knows their wishes. 

But back to the Seema's motion.  Its purpose is to establish a duty on schools and colleges to educate pupils aged 16 and over about organ donation. Great example of how we should be integrating health and education.  Meeting the demand for donations can be tackled by educating young people about how they can save a life.  Most of us are potential donors but most of us just don't turn our attention to organ donation while we are fit and well. In circumstances where donation is an option, next of kin will be better prepared to deal with what will be a traumatic situation - and thus more willing to agree to donation.
An opt-in system allows next of kin to refuse to allow organs to be donated.  But there is overwhelming evidence that education and forethought provide the crucial difference between the next of kin of a potential donor agreeing.  ITV's hugely successful 'From the Heart Campaign' that ran for a week over Valentine's resulted in a surge of 120,000 people joining the organ donor register, primary evidence of the value of raising awareness.

As a society we are poor about discussing difficult issues. There is nothing more difficult than our own death!  I am planning to write to local schools and sixth forms in Montgomeryshire and raise the possibility of holding debates/discussions on this issue. Let us build on the magnificent initiative of ITV.

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