Organ Donor Wishes Recorded Incorrectly for 800,000 Britons
As many as 800,000 people on the UK organ donor register may have had their preferences about which organs they wished to donate recorded incorrectly according to the BBC.
The foul-up concerns UK residents who gave details of which organs they were willing to have removed after their death on the application to renew their driver's license.
Stephen Banks, 27, from Redditch, Worcestershire, told the BBC he was shocked to discover that upon his death, his eyes could be made available for donation - against his wishes.
He said that while filling out the form to renew his driving license in February he indicated he was happy to donate all his organs - apart from his eyes. Subsequently he received a letter from the National Health Service (NHS) Blood and Transplant Authority thanking him for donating all of his organs including his eyes.
"I feel a bit embarrassed to call up and say, 'I want my eyes back,'" Banks said.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham said errors in recording donors' preferences began appearing over ten years ago.
"It would appear to relate to a technical error going back to 1999 and this was how data was transferred between the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Authority) and the blood and transplant service. That has now been corrected," he said.
A consequence of the data-handling errors is that the NHS Transplant Authority has confirmed 21 cases in which organs may have been taken from donors without their prior consent.
A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant told the Sunday Telegraph, "We are aware of issues with the records with a small proportion of the people who signed up to the NHS organ donor register. There are a small number of cases, 21 over the past six years, where the person has died and their preferences may not have been correctly recorded.
"We are taking it very seriously and are urgently investigating the situation. Our priority is in ensuring that the families of those who may have been affected are contacted."
Joyce Robins of the patient advocacy group Patient Concern commented, "This government has got an absolutely dreadful record when it comes to data, but it is horrific that such sensitive details were handled in such a careless way."
The admission by the NHS of the mishandling of organ donors' data exacerbates the lack of confidence Britons have in the organ transplant system.
In 2008 the British government's considered a "presumed consent" scheme for organ donations; but this was later put on the back burner. But though the "presumed consent" plan was withdrawn, the recommendations of the government task force that was assigned to review the question of how to increase organ donations alarmed pro-life advocates, who warned they could increase threats to the lives of vulnerable patients who may have organs removed from their bodies before they are dead.
The task force said that a patient becomes a potential donor "when a decision has been taken - in the best interests of the patient - that further active treatment is no longer appropriate and should be withdrawn."
"The terms 'treatment' and 'best interests' are the key phrases," said John Smeaton, head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, at the time, "because they have become code words for passive euthanasia by dehydration."
Contact: Thaddeus M. Baklinski
Publish Date: April 14, 2010
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