Alan Dee: Give blood, or go without

CUE squeals of protest. It’s the Big State gone mad, opines one Tory MP. The bodysnatchers are being given free rein, claim the critics. What on earth has been going on?

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 3rd August 2011, 6:57 am

Now calm yourself, because this is a major change to the way we live our lives.

If you’re applying for a driving licence, there has always been a question asking if you wouldn’t mind awfully if, you know, the worst happens, you’d see your way clear to allowing the various bits of your body which still might be of use to someone else to be given another go.

But it wasn’t a compulsory question, and if you wanted to skate by it you could.

So what’s happened now? Have those interfering swine come up with a deposit scheme that requires you to leave tissue samples or even a kidney at reception before you can get behind the wheel? Are they demanding that you go under the knife to offer up a slice of liver than can be regenerated and then implanted into a booze-sodden benefits cheat? Er, no.

What has prompted what the more excitable sections of our national press are minded to describe as a furious backlash is this – you can’t ignore the question any more.

Now people are still asked whether they would like to sign up, but they have to give an answer. They can say yes, they can say no, they can even defer a decision – they just have to give it a bit of thought.

Apparently it could double the number of potential donors, which is good news if you’re waiting for a transplant.

But it’s also one step closer to compulsory organ donation, if you believe the critics – to which I can only ask, with genuine bafflement, what on earth is your problem with that?

Here’s a statistic – less than one in three of us has taken the time to sign up to the register.

Does that mean that more than 60 per cent of the population would also turn down the chance of a new life if they were let down by a vital bit of their body? Not a bit of it – they just expect someone else to do the dirty work for them.

Which means, sadly, that around 1,000 people a year die waiting for a transplant, because there just aren’t enough organs to go round.

I tend to see things like this in black and white, I’m afraid, and while the need to boost the register is obvious I’m more offended by the pathetic proportion of the population who give blood regularly – that’s only about five per cent of us, and if you’re not in that number and there’s no medical reason for you not to be rolling up your sleeve on a regular basis, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

Here’s how it should work – you can only take out if you’re prepared to put in.

So anyone turning up at A&E, or for a GP appointment, or even phoning NHS Direct, should be asked for their NHS number – we’ve all got one – so that a quick check can establish whether they’re signed up for the register and regular blood donations.

If they’re not – well, for the next couple of years I’d just send them to the back of the queue. After that, turn them away.

There is, of course, one answer on that impertinent driving licence form that is not immediately suggested. Do you want to be on the organ donor register? No, because I already am. If you can’t say that, then at least have a think about it.