Is it Ethical to refuse organ donation based on Religious beliefs?

With the Welsh Government leading in the UK to change legislation on organ donation, there are those who appose the bill. The Roman Catholic Church of Wales; including the Welsh & Orthodox Church, have urged the government to revise its policies “In a joint statement they said they were, profoundly committed to human dignity in life and death”. (Archbishop of Wales, 2012 as cited in BBC News), basing their decision on the social, moral & ethical principles, with concerns the government cannot assume the consent of each individual; automatically adding the Welsh public to the donors register.

The Welsh Government have, and will continue to follow the wishes of individuals; and their families, who would like to opt out of the donors list.“… launch a white paper consultation on an Organ Donation (Wales) Bill before the end of this year. The Bill will provide for an opt-out system of organ donation, backed by a comprehensive communication programme.” (Jones. C, First Minister. 2011).

With this in mind, there are currently 7,500 people within the UK who are waiting for an organ transplant. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), (2012). Of these people who are already having to go through the torment of being diagnosed with a life threatening illness, then have to suffer the anguish & anxiety of waiting on a list for a donor; a list they may never see the end of.

A further 2,873 people have been suspended from the current waiting list because their bodies are too ill to receive a transplant at present. According to the churches earlier comment of: human dignity in life and in death, beggars belief to what their actual intensions are, as they appear to be more supportive of your body after death, than morally trying to save a life, or at least trying to preserving a persons dignity as they battle through ill health (Catholic education resource centre, 2012). Where is the social, moral and human dignity in that?

You could argue the church are in no position to dictate other people’s lives, on the assumption of their own beliefs. Ethically we need to act on what we know to be true, not what we believe to be false. Health professionals are aware of the scarceness of organs, and follow the ethical principles by ensuring kidneys are allocated to patients, who have been identified with 5 major themes: patient advocacy, professional and moral integrity, protecting center reputation, achieving equity, and maximizing societal benefit, (Tong et el, 2011) thus demonstrating health professionals are more committed to the ethics and principles of peoples consensual preferences. (NHS Blood & Transplant, 2012)

These operations are not only taken with the greatest care and respect for the individuals, but the success rate of all donated organs are high. “one of the great success stories of the latter half of the 20th century” (Yacoub, 2012)

  • 94% of kidneys in living donor transplants are still functioning well
  • 88% of kidneys from people who have died are still functioning well
  • 86% of liver transplants are still functioning well while
  • 84% of heart transplants are still functioning well.

For lung transplants the figure is 77% while 73% of heart/lung transplants are still functioning well. (NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), (2012).

The Welsh government are right in trying to commit everybody to the list initially, which has once again highlighted the shortage we face for organ donations today; if you wish to opt out, you will make it your business to do so.

As of the 2nd February 2012, there are currently only 7,650 people active on the transplant list. (NHS, 2012). The probability of a person receiving an organ, that is suitable from the 7,650 people who have agreed to donate is minimal, resulting in three people waiting on the transplant list to die each day.

Hopefully the scientific evidence will prevail, especially as a persons life is at stake.

References

Tong, A., Howard, K., Wong, G., Cass, A., Jan, S., Irving, M., Craig, J.C. (2011). Nephrologists’ Perspectives on Waitlisting and Allocation of Deceased Donor Kidneys for Transplant. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF KIDNEY DISEASES. 58. Pg 704-716. DOI: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2011.05.029

Welsh Government. (2011). Proposals for Legislation on Organ and Tissue Donation. Consultation Document retrieved from http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dhss/consultation/111107orgdonwpen.pdf

Archbishop of Wales, (2012). Organ donation: Church leaders in Wales attack presumed consent. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-16676756

BBC, (2011). Hostile World. Inside the Human Body: Double Hand Transplant Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bis5Iy3ESuo

Children’s memorial hospital, (2011). Waiting for a Heart (Episode 10 ) – A video diary of a teenager on the transplant list. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmoMXt4ALS0

Lay Witness magazine, (2001). Play It Again Organ Donation. Catholic Education Resource Centre. Publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc retrieved from http://catholiceducation.org/articles/medical_ethics/me0019.html

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). More organ donors needed to reduce transplant waiting times. Organ Donation as cited in http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news/2011/newsrelease040711.html (4/7/2011)

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). Donor statistics. Organ Donation as cited in http://www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/statistics/calendar_year_statistics/donor/donor.jsp

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). Success Rates. Organ Donation as cited in http://www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/about_transplants/success_rates/success_rates.jsp

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). NHSBT and BTS guidelines for consent for solid organ transplantation. Organ Donation as cited in http://www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/about_transplants/guidelines_for_consent/guidelines_for_consent.jsp

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