By Lisa Zengarini
Bishops of England and Wales have welcomed a new National Health Service (NHS) campaign aimed at encouraging people to talk to their families and loved ones about their organ donation decisions. The ‘Leave Them Certain’ campaign has been launched by the NHS Blood and Transplant following a law change that has introduced an opt-out or “deemed consent” system for organ donation. As of May last year, organs and tissues of a deceased person can be automatically transplanted, unless the person concerned has explicitly expressed the desire not to donate. The aim of the campaign is to ensure that the donation does not take place against the will of the deceased. This is why it is important for people to make their decision clear and talk to their loved ones about organ donation before they die.
Bishop Paul Mason, Head of the Healthcare and Mental Health Department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) has welcomed the ‘Leave Them Certain’ initiative “as a step in the right direction” of ensuring that families are always included in the end-of-life care and decisions of their loved ones.
“The death of a relative or loved one is one of the hardest and most human challenges we face but having these conversations before that time can help us to feel more at peace knowing that we are carrying out the wishes of those whom we will forever hold in our hearts”, he said in a statement. The prelate also pointed out that young people can play an especially important role in being change-makers in the way our society speaks about end-of-life care and decisions, quoting Pope St John Paul’s II words in his Address to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society in 2000.
“It might seem a bit scary at first, but instigating these conversations ultimately gives us all more confidence to be able to speak openly about our wishes at the end of life. This will give our family and friends the certainty of knowing that even if we are unable to express these wishes in our time of dying, they will know that they are doing what we wanted” Bishop Mason explained, therefore encouraging people to start to talk more openly about organ donation with their loved ones.
The Catholic Church has consistently encouraged the faithful to consider organ donation, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church regards as “a noble and meritorious act” and “an expression of generous solidarity” (CCC 2296). At the same time, it maintains the right to exercise a freely made decision otherwise this undermines the concept of donation as a gift. After the new law was introduced last year, the CBCEW published some Guidelines, which can be downloaded from its website, to help Catholics make an informed decision on organ donation.