More on Kidney Donation

At the risk of stirring up the wrath (again) of those who want presumed consent in the UK, this story in the Observer tries to make the case.

Laurence Isaacson fell ill and was diagnosed with acute renal failure. He spent some time seeking a live donor. It is difficult to read his story without feeling for him and those who went through the tests to see if they were a match. As he says, live donation leaves the donor able to carry on. We can manage with one kidney, providing there are no relevant health problems. During his search, potential donors were ruled out because of the potential risks to the donor – and that’s as it should be.

And, unlike cheap dental operations in eastern Europe or plastic surgery in Brazil, under the Human Tissues Act you can’t search for kidney donors abroad in exchange for financial inducement.

Perhaps that should be changed. Providing there is no coercion and provided the same health risks are analysed and the donor rejected accordingly, why shouldn’t the donor make a financial gain from the transaction?

Ultimately, though, despite giving us a harrowing story (that was eventually successful) about attempts to secure a live donor – who was able and willing to give consent – we come to the crux of the matter.

The current system is that you have to sign up to donate. In those other countries, hospitals can use organs from people who have died, presuming their consent. If we had presumed consent, there would be a significant increase in the number of organs available. I wouldn’t have had to put my friends in such a position. There are thousands of people on dialysis, many of whom will die before an organ becomes available.

So, the whole thing was an appeal to emotion. This story would be useful to make potential donors think about their body after death and sign up. To seek to use it as an attempt to assume consent where consent has not been specifically given merely hardens my attitude.

Presumed consent is not consent and never will be. Fortunately, the Cleggerons have no plans to bring it about.


  1. As a ‘filthy’ smoker, my organs (or blood products) are obviously of no use to anybody. Therefore they shall be burnt with me intact.

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