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ss triple helix - spring 2013,  Flesh and blood

Flesh and blood

Giving more than money

Review by Philippa Taylor - CMF Head of Public Policy.

'What if the Church saw organ donation as part of its giving?' reads the strapline to a new campaign which wants to mobilise UK churches to promote blood and organ donation. The aim of FleshandBlood is to build on the Christian culture of giving and make blood and organ donation a part of this.

There were 7,800 people on the UK waiting list for a transplant in 2011. There were 511 deaths of people on the waiting list although this figure may be higher, according to the BMA, perhaps up to 1,000 people. (1)

FleshandBlood encourages church denominations, organisations and individuals to be advocates for donation. They are working in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant to raise the profile of donation within the Christian community.

'Being willing to give our time, money and gifts is a significant aspect of our stewardship of what we have received. But this applies just as much to the blood that flows in our veins; and the organs that are such an intrinsic part of our bodies.' (2)

A CMF paper (3) by consultant transplant surgeon, Keith Rigg, encourages us all to consider what we would like to happen to our organs and tissues after death. Organ and tissue donation fits within the Christian stewardship responsibility and call for sacrificial giving and love.

Nevertheless, organ donation is not without controversies. There is currently a draft bill in Wales that is likely to introduce presumed consent for organ donation. CMF has submitted several briefings to the Welsh Assembly outlining some ethical and practical concerns with presuming consent to donation when it has not been given. (4) We should also be aware of other agendas, such as conflicts of interest, debates over the definitions of death, (3) use of elective ventilation and 'mandated' consent. (5)

Our support for organ donation is based upon it being a free gift in a context of fully informed consent, not undermined through any hint of financial incentives or felt duty. The altruistic gift aspect of donation, which arises from fully informed consent, fulfills our Christian obligation to love our neighbour as ourself and fits the mandate to heal, motivated by compassion and mercy for others.

This new campaign is based purely on altruistic donation. In addition to advocating blood and organ donation as part of the 'giving' culture of the Church, FleshandBlood offers information and resources to equip individuals in local churches to consider donation and to promote it to the wider community. It is a great new initiative that we welcome and support:

  1. 'Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK?' BMA. 2012.
  2. Bishop James Newcombe, Church of England Lead Bishop for Healthcare.
  3. 'Organ Transplantation'. CMF File 36. 2008.
  4. 'Submission to the Welsh Government Draft Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill' 2013.
  5. 'Controversial proposals from the BMA on organ donation'. 2012.
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