AN organ donation campaigner whose daughter died waiting for a transplant has urged caution over plans to prevent families from overriding donor consent.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) wants to ensure a person’s wish to donate is honoured if they die and is considering the move as part of a new strategy document aiming to build on a 50 per cent increase in deceased donation rates since 2008.
But Michael Amies, who lost his adopted daughter Catherine in 2010 when a suitable organ donor could not be found, said he is “very nervous” about the idea.
Mr Amies and his wife Elisabeth are both members of the Organ Donation Committee for Worcestershire NHS Acute Trust and desperately wants to increase transplant rates and see more organs donated to help others.
But he fears it would be playing with fire to simply ignore family members’ wishes at a time when they are already hugely upset.
“I would much rather do this by education than by law,” he said. “Apart from the kicking and screaming I would not be surprised if before long there were lawsuits about it.”
Mr and Mrs Amies, from Pershore, chose to honour Catherine’s own wishes to be an organ donor and her heart valves, cornea and liver were used to help give three others a chance at life. Mr Amies believes more people who want to become donors need to talk to their families about their wishes while they are still alive.
“If you do want to be an organ donor then tell your loved ones your wishes. Then the consultants will not be facing an uphill battle,” he said. “It may not be the easiest conversation to have but if a family has spoken face-to-face with their loved one about their wishes then I think generally it is something that will happen.”
He said: “It was a very difficult decision for us to make as parents but we are happy that we made it rather than the doctor coming in and telling us they were planning to do it or had done it already. I think that would be very difficult to take.”
The NHSBT strategy, which has the backing of the four UK health ministers, wants a “revolution in public attitudes and behaviour” so that individuals and families will be proud to support donation. It says the UK will examine systems similar to those used in the USA, where families are not permitted to override pre-existing consent. Dr Paul Murphy, of NHSBT, said: “When a family says no to donation it means someone’s hopes of a life-saving transplant are dashed. They need to understand the consequences of refusal.”
NHSBT is also calling for a national debate on proposals to increase organ donation, asking questions such as whether the public would support giving those on the organ donor register higher priority for transplants.
Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation, said: “We need to have a serious debate in our society about our attitudes – is it fair to take if you won’t give? “Is it right to allow our organs to be buried or cremated with us when they could save lives?”