It’s people like this who do change the world

Elizabeth Ward obituary
Pioneer of the first organ donor card who fought tirelessly to improve hospital resources after her son suffered kidney failure

There is a sadness though:

Ward claimed that an opt-out scheme would enable the estimated 5,000 people waiting for transplants to be matched with a readily available “cadaveric kidney” much sooner and that it would save the NHS millions because the cost of a kidney transplant is half that of a year of dialysis. “If the law was changed from a consent register to a dissent register there’s not the slightest doubt that many lives would be saved,” she told The Times in 2006. Ward lived long enough to see Max and Keira’s Law enacted in May.

It has been tried in varied jurisdictions and it makes no difference. There aren’t enough cadaveric kidneys that are of use whatever the permission issue.

32 thoughts on “It’s people like this who do change the world”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Part of the problem seems to be the lengths that doctors go to to keep people alive.

    One of my neighbours, a 40 year old woman in good health had a massive brain haemorrhage. She was the sort of woman that would have wanted her organs to be used but in the end they could for “technical reasons”. They’d pumped so many drugs in to her in a vain attempt to keep her alive that they couldn’t use anything.

  2. “If the law was changed from a consent register to a dissent register there’s not the slightest doubt that many lives would be saved,”

    After decades as a voluntary donor I withdrew my consent after they switched from “Opt In” to “Opt Out” and have received my notification of Organ Donation Dissidence from NHS Scotland. Not sure I buy her logic on “Opt In” vs “Opt Out”.

    I would be genuinely interested to know whether it made a difference at the sharp end (i.e. resulted in more organ transplants). I suspect Tim is right about the barrier being the state of the organs rather than the consent of the deceased.

    Until we have honest and unbiased analysis of the situation both before and after we won’t know if things are better, worse or unchanged. Which is what we really want to know, surely?

  3. Not sure I’d want a donor organ, what if you got an evil hand from a deceased murderer and it kept trying to strangle you while you were eating a Pot Noodle and masturbating, or something?

  4. I opted out and have a certificate as well. I would have gladly donated beforehand, but as usual compulsion means that I refuse on principle ( yes yes I wear seat belts, but did so before they were compulsory).

    I suppose it depends on the type of death ? Organ failure and cancers of some kinds often means that the rest may be rendered useless, which is why accident victims are preferred.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    I refuse compulsion in principle too. I used to opt-in and then I opted out. A little earlier than this scheme though.

    I did so for two reasons. One is that I became convinced that the evidence for brain death being death is not all that good. There is some evidence that donors exhibit unfortunate brain activity when organs are taken.

    The other is that doctors I knew were clearly too donee-happy. I think they could have done more for some people but they did not because they wanted the organs.

    It was about the time of Terry Schiavo where the whole world of medical ethics was on display and it was not nice.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    I haven’t opted in or out, as I’ll be gone that’s my wife and/or son’s decisions. I have told them that my choice is for my body to be used in medical science but that is a tough call for them because there’s no closure in seeing a coffin disappear so that grieving can start. If they’d prefer organ donor that’s OK.

    Even with opt out they’re still supposed to consult family so I’m not sure what’s changed.

  7. I opted in.
    I absolutely hate the opt-in system. If it wasn’t for the fact that I like people and want to help them I would opt out. My body and my organs are not the state’s.

  8. I used to favour the opt-in system. Now I favour the opt-out. I wouldn’t like to miss the opportunity of my kidneys going to some third world riff-raff came to the UK for the free NHS & social security money. Guaranteed death sentence for the cnvt. Just like pulling the trigger, myself.

  9. I also have opted out. Hopefully when the time comes my internal organs will have been shot to pieces anyway.

  10. Nobody would want my bitter, twisted blackened heart anyway. And my liver has taken a fair amount of abuse too 🙂

  11. “Not sure I’d want a donor organ, what if you got an evil hand from a deceased murderer and it kept trying to strangle you while you were eating a Pot Noodle and masturbating, or something?”
    Just swap hands. Maybe it doesn’t like Pot Noodle.

  12. “seeing a coffin disappear so that grieving can start”: that’s a rather odd view. I’d expect the grieving to start the moment you hear of someone’s death. Did those mothers who lost sons on the Western Front not grieve? Those mothers who lost boys at sea?

  13. Steve

    Not sure I’d want a donor organ, what if you got an evil hand from a deceased murderer and it kept trying to strangle you while you were eating a Pot Noodle and masturbating, or something?

    And they say that men can’t multi-task!

    See the 1924 film The Hands Of Orlac (and several remakes), in which a concert pianist (the ever-creepy Conrad Veidt) loses his hands in an accident, and has them replaced with the hands of a murderer; he worries that he’s also acquired the murderer’s tendency to violence…

  14. The alacrity with which the gubmint copied the Chinese model of lockdown makes me worry whether the NHS would want to copy the Chinese model of scheduled organ transplants from those who have erred in word thought or deed.

  15. You know what might have worked – an opt-in scheme where your inheritors got paid. I bet you’d have gotten a lot of opt-ins without needing the coercion.

    Still wouldn’t have been enough on its own but better.

  16. So what was all that about, when I woke up in that hotel in Sofia in a bath full of ice, with a pack of paracetamol and a telephone number written in lipstick on my hand ?

  17. @Agammamon – I’ve said before that if you want the British to opt-in then have a scheme whereby any deceased whose organs are ACTUALLY USED would have their estate become free of death taxes. Sure, it would be a bit of a lottery, since (as Tim has pointed out), the issue is not the supply of donors but the supply of viable organs.

    Another approach would be to ban the use of helmets for bikes and motorcycles, but that’s probably a step too far for the Blue Labour shite in office at the moment.

  18. Dear Mr Worstall

    It is but a mere shifting of the goal posts towards people becoming full livestock of the state, when organ harvesting at any stage of life, and even cause of death, becomes a mere formality.

    On an uplifting note, voluntary donation of a kidney inter vivos has been made easier by a matching service across would-be donors and recipients. Thus if person A wishes to donate to B, but the match is not good enough, meanwhile C & D are in the same boat, but A and D and C and B are perfect matches, everyone’s a winner.

    The chains tend to be longer than this.

    DP

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ I would applaud some of the litter-bugs round here being treated to a bit of organ-harvesting.”

    I’d harvest those organs live from the people who leave dog shit bags lying around. The worst thing is in the country there’s no need to pick it up, just get a stick and flick it under a hedge, just get it off the footpath.

  20. Bloke in North Dorset

    dearieme,

    It’s not scientific but those mothers wanted to know there was a grave and many went of to see them. Parents of disappeared children want the body back, even though they’re resigned to their likely death so the can bury them.

    It’s also anecdotal, my father donated his body to science and though we had a service it wasn’t the same as a funeral. I’ve pondered that a lot and though the memory is very old I seem to remember the organisation that received his body making a similar point when they wrote to thank us. At the time they offered the remains back after 2 years so you could have a what might be termed a proper funeral.

  21. BiND: I’d harvest those organs live from the people who leave dog shit bags lying around. The worst thing is in the country there’s no need to pick it up…

    …the badgers, foxes, deer, rodents, birds don’t bag theirs so, yes, harvest away the organs of the demented platoons with the little plastic bags but please leave their brains, suitably bagged, by other folks’ wheelie-bins to show that we care about the nevironment.

  22. @BiND
    It used to be standard practice for the medical students and lecturers who worked on the cadaver to attend the final funeral, as well. I don’t know if this still goes on.

    It’s understandable that people in grief don’t behave entirely rationally (as they themselves will often later admit). Look at the scandal at Alder Hey where organs were retained as lab specimens and the parents of the dead children they were taken from without permission were deeply upset. Rationally, one would ask whether they kept all their children’s nail and hair clippings as well, but we don’t think entirely rationally in such circumstances.

  23. My wife for many years was in the situation of having to asking about consent for donation (doctors liked to palm it off on nurses), not the easiest conversation to have with a grieving family and she said you’d be surprised how many refused even when there was a donor card, one thing to say you’ll honour someone’s decision to their face, another thing to have to actually make the decision after you have just lost them

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