Friday, August 5, 2011


This is a rather unethical piece of news.

If it was April, I'd think that it was some kind of joke - especially as the doctor who said it has a bit of a silly name* - but she really is calling for the old urban myth of people supposedly found lying in the street after being kidnapped and having a vital organ removed to become a reality - if not so much for the chiiiiildren as the young people:

Students should be allowed to pay off their debts by selling a kidney, an academic said.

With three people on the kidney transplant list dying in the UK every day and thousands more receiving dialysis, Dr Sue Rabbitt Roff says it's time to look at regulated payments for live kidneys.

Under the Human Tissue act (2004), it is currently illegal to buy or sell organs for transplant.

However, Dr Rabbitt Roff, a research fellow in medical sociology at Dundee University, argues that a standard payment of £28,000 - equivalent to the average UK annual income - would encourage people to consider donating an organ.

At least the BMJ isn't backing this outright - they much prefer the idea of propaganda - perhaps by the next generation people will be denormalised if they don't subscribe to giving over a spare kidney that they could live without :

Dr Tony Calland, Chairman of the British Medical Association's Medical Ethics Committee, said: “The BMA would not support payment for donating organs.
"We believe that one of the best ways to increase organ donation is to move to a system of presumed consent with safeguards – this would have to be supported by the public and be preceded by a high profile public awareness campaign.

Either way, it's a despicable idea. Organ donation should be a private matter and a personal choice and not one where people are pressurised either through poverty or medical community nudging with the aid of Govt.

I sympathise with the unhealthy who may have been born with a condition that means they spend hours, days, weeks or months on a dialysis machine, but sometimes life is hard and we live with what we get.

I once knew a woman like that who was ultimately given that chance of having a full life with a new kidney but when it came to smokers, she was one of the most intolerant people I've ever met.

I guessed she wasn't a smoker and whenever we met, I chose not to smoke because she didn't. When the issue came up between us, pre-ban, she said she had no idea I was a smoker so I guess the "stink" factor wasn't as strong as the propaganda would have us believe. She also said she supported the idea of a full ban because "I don't like smoking very much."

I pointed out it wasn't a question of liking or not liking something and if we banned all things that particular people didn't like there wouldn't be much left that we could do.

She then turned on me using her poor kidney as an excuse to moralise and say "If you had bad health then you'd feel differently."

Perhaps I would but then bad health is not exclusive to this lady - or her daughter who shared the same condition - but I have known never smoker cancer sufferers who don't take the same intolerant "I don't like it so no one should do it," attitude.

I have never carried a donor card partly because I think that if I was in an accident and it took a lot of trouble to save me, would they just give up and save another life instead if my organs were up for grabs?

Perhaps that's the way it would be if the BMJ's idea of a public campaign is given the same kind of lashings of cash as the anti-smoker campaign and jobs ultimately depended on harvesting the dying.

And before anyone says the organs of smokers are too tainted for use anyway, then it's worth remembering what Chris Watson, vice-president of the British Transplantation Society, once said:

"Data shows that transplants using smokers' lungs are just as effective in the long term as those using lungs from non-smokers."

* Talking of silly names, incidentally, I was once asked if Nurse was my real name given that I often write about health issues. I assured the person that it was and she said : "Oh, I thought it was a joke." Therefore I accept that this is case of teapot calling the kettle black.