This weeks podcast and blog has been inspired by a listener who directed me to an article about a little girl who had died. They pointed out how many people she helped to live by the donation of her organs. This was a hot and difficult topic for the listener as they are now in a similar situation where a relative close to them will shortly die. Their family are currently discussing the rightness or wrongness of donating organs. Their discussion also raised the issue of the rights of the family versus the donor. Should the family have a say in someone’s decision to become an organ donor. They suggested that Ed and I do a podcast to look at this difficult issue. I started asking people, checking some services and ideas online. The first issue seems to be is it right or wrong?
So, is it right to give part of your body to another person? Some people who become donors donate their body once they are dead while others do so while they are still alive giving away a kidney, bone marrow, eggs and semen, blood and so on. The whole issue raises so many questions. The main one being just because we can do something should we?
Would you be a recipient?
Ok, so would you accept an organ from a donor? Would you accept a blood transfusion?
As a lot of these issues are so personal I have put in quite a few links, some about people who have actually had the transplants described. The issues of both accepting and giving body parts hits at the very core of what do we believe, issues of morality and what is right and wrong.
Would you donate?
Would you give an organ? Do you carry a donor card? Sixty two percent of people in Britain do carry a card, while only 4% of us are prepared to give blood? And each year hundreds of people donate their entire body to anatomical and medical science.
It would seem that donating your very skin and bones is the ultimate act of altruism. For many the feeling is that once you are dead you no longer need them and the may as well be recycled. For others a desecration of someone’s remains is the ultimate act of disrespect.
I have worked with people who have been waiting a very long time for a suitable donor and some who have died while waiting due to the lack of suitable donors. I also know someone who chose to donate a kidney to a complete stranger on the basis that they had two and only needed one. They literally just put themselves on the register and eventually a suitable recipient came along.
I have also worked with both heart and liver recipients of transplants who despite their gratitude to the donor experience the development of odd behaviours, habits and cravings, as though the organ brought a certain amount or memory with it. Not all donations are easily received.
Man who rejected donor hands
Even those that do receive an organ or as in the link below a pair of hands are unable to accept and accommodate the gift. This man decided that he would rather have them removed.
It may equally be true of the recipients of another persons face. In this link the man has had an astounding reconstruction. I look in the mirror now and find that the effects of age have changed the person who is looking back leaving me with the question ‘who are you?’ An interesting and educational journey.
In the Christian faith Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible says taking blood is wrong and would not accept blood transfusions. Therefore, they would not donate. They also keep their own blood for future transfusion. Many non-Christians would concur and refuse to give or receive blood. For me I am happy to both give and receive blood.
Animal organs – pigs
This a big one. Is it right to create an animal that has been engineered so that its body parts would be acceptable to the human body? Does this raise the issues of animal rights? I guess that if you are happy to eat meat then organs are a byproduct of the same process. For me, as a vegetarian, the idea of breeding an animal to harvest it’s organs is outrageous. But it is a personal issue.
This is a very interesting area of research. With the development of neuropsychology the relationship between the gut and our brains and between the gut and our emotional self is being investigated. It seems that we can say ‘happy gut happy brain’. We know that many medications, including antibiotics rip the natural flora out of the gut. This can have many consequences including emotional issues such as depression. Current experiments where faecal matter from people with a health gut/brain is transplanted into those lacking in appropriate flora is showing good results. Have a look at the link below it might open your eyes to the possibilities. How would you feel about having someone else’s faecal matter transferred into your gut?
Donor eggs and sperm
IVF and fertility clinics would not normally be associated with ideas of donation but that is exactly what they are. Even if the couple involved are known to each other and the IVF follows the same route that would have been taken naturally we are still moving bits of one person into another. One thing that concerns me in this area is the idea of designer babies, either to create a certain quality of child or a second child whose blood or umbilical fluids might be used to cure a brother or sister.
Looking at this overall I ask myself again the question ‘just because we can do something should we do it?’ Once we play with the gene pool we are releasing unknown consequences into the future. Lots to think about in this podcast and blog.
Take care and be happy.