Letters: Organ donation

Organ donation: just ask people what they want
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The Independent Online

The Royal College of Physicians is right to propose a three-way mandated choice for organ donation. The growing shortfall of organs for transplant imposes on us a moral obligation to consider new ways to increase the number of donors.

Not only is the current opt-in system failing to meet demand, it cannot guarantee that an individual's wishes will be carried out. The decision is often left to family members who may not know what their relative would have wanted; and, at the other extreme, 10 per cent of registered donors still have their wishes vetoed by their family when they die.

The British Medical Association favours presumed consent, but this assumes that the lack of a registered objection signifies a willingness to donate, when it could easily be the result of ignorance of the opt-out system, simple inertia, or an unwillingness to contemplate death and organ donation.

Mandated choice requires you to state a preference in advance, thereby maximising the chances of your wishes being fulfilled. Your family cannot override your decision unless you opt for them to have the final say, in which case they would know that you weren't actively opposed to organ donation; if you had been, you would have ticked "No".

This should both increase donation rates and reduce the risk of families worrying that they are donating a relative's organs when that is not what he or she would have wanted.

If the current advertising campaign does not recruit enough donors to fill the shortfall then we should examine other systems; but we cannot presume to know what people want done with their organs unless we ask them.

Dr Hugo Wellesley

Great Ormond street Hospital London WC1

As one of 7,000 people in the UK awaiting a kidney transplant I was delighted by your prominent call to arms over the issue of organ donation (4 November).

My hopes were raised with the discussion, a year ago, about whether our country should switch to presumed consent. At the time I wrote to many public figures and received encouraging responses from the Prime Minister and my Labour MP. A spokesman for David Cameron accepted that presumed consent had proved to be a significant success in Spain but inexplicably said that Cameron could not support the change. The Organ Donation Taskforce then came down against presumed consent.

The waiting list grows ever longer. Something has to change. I am grateful that you have taken a lead in starting a debate.

Carol Gould


Losing faith in the Afghan campaign

I joined the remembrance ceremony at our local war memorial, but the Government should not take high attendances at memorial events as signifying support for the current war in Afghanistan.

I attended primarily out of respect for those who gave their lives to protect this country from invasion in the war against fascism. But I also attended out of respect for those who are currently being sacrificed on the altar of the vanity of our politicians who cannot admit that they have got it wrong in Afghanistan.

In the past fortnight the futility of the campaign in Afghanistan has been brought into sharper focus, by a succession of traumatic events:

The failure of the "Panther's Claw" troop surge to secure a free and fair first round in the presidential election has been compounded by the cancellation of the second round.

The murder of five soldiers by one of the policemen they were training demonstrates that it is almost impossible to prevent the Taliban infiltrating the Afghan security forces.

The murder, in the United States, of 12 military personnel and a civilian by a Muslim major, opposed to the war in Afghanistan.

Increasingly audacious terrorist attacks against military bases in the heart of Pakistan, by al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, some of whom may have been driven out of Afghanistan into Pakistan by the war.

There are few Afghans in Britain, but hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis. Increasing militancy in Pakistan is likely to have an impact on Pakistani communities in the UK. Far from reducing the risk of terrorism in this country, the consequence of the "war against terror" in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan is likely to be the exact opposite.

Julius Marstrand


General Lord Guthrie is right to point out the startling lacuna in Gordon Brown's speech on the British presence in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister claims it is vital to the United Kingdom for British forces to be fighting there, yet he shows no sign of adopting the necessary war measures to prepare the nation for the task he envisages.

Clearly Nato is an unreliable alliance and – Canada, Denmark and the United States apart – its members neither share Mr Brown's apocalyptic vision of the threat, nor are they prepared to commit fighting troops to combat it. Why is he right and they wrong?

Only by a convincing, forensic analysis of the facts can the case be made to a sceptical British public – or possibly not. Former FCO minister Kim Howells recently argued compellingly for a fundamental strategic reassessment of the case for the UK's – and Nato's – campaign in Afghanistan and urged for the focus to be on on UK border and internal defensive measures.

Mr Brown's argument that simply cannot be sustained is: we carry on because we're there; we've been there a long time, we have suffered casualties and therefore we can't quit now. That is not strategy.

William Pender

Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd)


The Tory history of Europe

The apparently "new" position on Europe outlined by David Cameron is yet more evidence of Tory inconsistency. Perhaps they need a history lesson.

This is the party that took Britain in the European Economic Community; the party that campaigned for a yes vote in the 1975 referendum; they signed up to the Single European Act that created the political dimensions of the EU; and, biggest of all, they gave us Maastricht in 1992 – without ven considering a referendum.

It's the Conservatives (not Labour or anyone else) who since the very beginning of Britain's involvement in the European project, made Britain part of it, shifting more and more sovereignty to the European level. For David Cameron to ask for a referendum on Lisbon while trying to keep a straight face would be laughable.

Lisbon is a tidying-up exercise, almost insignificant in comparison to Maastricht, which created the European symbols including the flag and anthem, and strengthened qualified majority voting, making it more difficult to veto decisions. It's the Conservatives that gave Britain the political Europe that they constantly condemn. And it's incredible how they somehow brush it off as if it were someone else's creation.

Toni Giugliano


The values millions died to defend

We have been involved in our annual weekend of national remembrance for millions of our young who gave their lives in war to protect the freedom and British way of life we live and breathe by.

They died for all the benefits of the precious lifestyle we enjoy. It must not be undermined by the culture of greed, which many in high places live by and try to excuse. They are in contempt of these precious values.

George Appleby


Mary Wakefield chose the day before Remembrance Sunday to display publicly her ignorance of those who fought and died in the Second World War ("Why all the fuss to install Park on the plinth", 7 November).

Why boast of never having heard of Keith Park, when reference to any war history would have alleviated her complacent lack of readily available knowledge. She aims her jibes at a man whose name many of those who marched on Sunday will remember with huge respect.

Mary Harris

London W11

Some cyclists are hard to avoid

I am pleased that David Prosser ("Motorists are just too lazy, selfish and reckless", 6 November) has recovered from his accident after a motorist knocked him off his bike, but it is grossly unfair to blame motorists for most accidents.

Around where I live there seems to be an outbreak of cyclists with a death wish. In the last week I have had two near-misses with cyclists cycling on busy roads after dark with no lights on their bikes, wearing dark clothing without a single patch of reflective material, and neither was wearing a helmet. They were not children or teenagers, but middle-aged adults who should have known better.

I am sure that there are plenty of careless motorists, but there are also many cyclists who are just as stupid and reckless.

Heather Smith

Bishop Auckland, Co Durham

However depressing the statistics of cyclists injured or killed in accidents, the conclusion is not to get off your bike but to get on it.

The number of cyclists in this country is still so small that drivers do not look out for us. Only by increasing our numbers can we raise the awareness of the motorists. On the Continent you do not do a left-hand turn (or rather for them it is a right-hand one) without looking over your shoulder to check for cyclists. Does anyone do it here? All driving instruction courses should include a session or two on a bike. Drivers must be taught to keep a safe distance when overtaking or approaching a cyclist – and cyclists need to be educated that the Highway Code applies to them too.

Soren Upton Sjolin

Bury ST Edmunds, Suffolk

This 'joke' was just not funny

Ian Burrell asks, "When is a joke not a joke?" (7 November). The answer should be obvious. A joke is often an exaggerated description of human behaviour told in a manner that people find funny because they see themselves. Excellent comedians (Jack Dee and Paul Merton, for example), can tell a story this way, whereas puerile individuals such as Frankie Boyle and David Walliams believe humour is using bad language and being offensive.

How they cannot see that Frankie Boyle's remarks about Rebecca Adlington were grossly offensive, beggars belief. If the choice is watching Rebecca swimming for gold or watching so-called comedians using bad language, then I am afraid we have a no-brainer.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

Sci-fi mystery

Unlike the writers of some of the letters you have published following the naming of Wayne Rooney's son, I don't know what Kai means. You'll probably have to ask Lex Gigeroff, who created the show, but Kai (the Dead Man) was a former assassin for His Divine Shadow, and the Last of the Brunnen G in the sci-fi series Lexx.

Dave MacKenzie


Non-speaking part

Recent correspondence about the casting of The Archers reminds me that in the days when Jim could fix it, I asked him to get me the part of Higgs, Jack Woolley's chauffeur, a man who had never uttered a word on air. I was hoping to provide a simple grunt in response to one of Jack's orders, but, alas, it was not to be, and I missed my chance to be part of the Archers' archive.

Richard Welch

Nantglyn, North Wales

Long way away

One of the frustrations that we provincial folk have with the London-based media is your lack of geographical knowledge outside the Home Counties. Your otherwise excellent piece on Mike Tyson's bizarre UK tour (7 November) was ruined by the assertion that Merthyr Tydfil and Bloxwich were "a short trip" from each other. One is in South Wales. The other is in the West Midlands. I'm pretty certain that you would not have described, say, Eastbourne and Watford in similar terms.

Mark Sawbridge


Cheerful tricks

The trick-or-treaters that came to my door at 9.30pm were "guised" in hoodies and were upwards of 11 years old (letter, 6 November). But, to my delight, when I returned with the sweets they were doing a rather good dance routine without any prompt from me. They were charming and well-mannered too. They may not have made me laugh – but they chased the Devil away alright.

Steven Rhodes

London SE11

Royal command

Further to Andrew Johnson's letter (6 November) and Brian Viner's digression concerning strange objects found in the rectum, I see a disturbing trend emerging featuring souvenirs from British seaside towns. If this is the best that one can hope to take home from a trip to a coastal resort then I am minded to follow the late King George V's advice: "Bugger Bognor!"

John Schluter

Guildford, Surrey