Today, at school, we were all fortunate to receive a visit and a talk from none other than Professor Anthony Warrens. For those of you who do not know who this illustrated man is, he is the Dean of Medicine at Barts Medical School. Professor Warrens holds many a degree, and is a member of the Royal College of Physicians. This is only a brief outline of his career, for a more detailed (yet also undoubtedly brief) summary of his career, please click here.
The main focus of Professor Warrens' talk today was on the concept of transplantation, in particular renal transplantation. He showed us much evidence and urged us to support his view that we should, if we agreed with organ donation, sign up to become an organ donor as soon as we could. Professor Warrens showed us that living with renal failure is very tough, and living with kidney dialysis isn't particular pleasant or easy either - it's hard to maintain a 'normal' life whilst on dialysis. Warrens continued by stating that whilst patients needing a kidney transplant could technically survive on dialysis, this sort of treatment isn't available for other organ failures: a brain transplant, for example. In short, we were urged to consider how important transplants are. An issue that is frequently in the news, and one that was illustrated to us today on a graph, is the number of transplant operations undertaken against the demand for transplants. It was staggering - sometimes the demand for transplants were up to five times the supply. This is a shame, for 70% of the UK agree with organ donation, yet only 25% or so of citizens are a registered organ donor.
An underlying question to the talk that we all thought was, "how can we increase the number of organ donors?" This, it appears, is a significant challenge. Professor Warrens explained to us that when he has been supervising patients who were, unfortunately, very close to inevitable death. It was very difficult to convince the patient or his/her family to let the patient's organs be used after death, even if they might be pro-donation. This is understandable - death is a very grave and stressful period in the patient's and family's lives - they do not want to conceive the idea of death in their mind, nor do they want to focus on what to do after death.
Speaking to his patients who did receive transplants, it is worth knowing that the patients were eternally grateful. They realised that the transplant had effectively given them a second chance at life, improving not only their potential lifespan, but also significantly improving their quality of life. This cannot be understated - I am completely for transplants, it is a wonderful thing. However, unfortunately, the UK stance is that in order to become an organ donor, one must sign up to be so. I whole heartedly disagree with this. Coming back to the fact that 70% of people are pro-donation, but only 25% sign up, I believe the UK should shift from an opt-in procedure, to an opt-out method. It would benefit the lives of patients, their family, the government. And no less, it would make Professor Antony Warrens (and myself) very happy and satisfied indeed.
Let me know what you think!