Gina Davidson: Everybody can give gift of life

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WHEN we joined our new GP surgery after moving house a few years ago we received a letter asking about organ donation. I felt quite blasé about it.

My instinctive reaction was that, yes, we were absolutely fine that our organs – whichever were usable after our deaths following a long life punctuated by occasional unhealthy indulgence – could be taken and ­accommodated in someone else’s body to save their life.

Why would anyone want to retain body parts which were no longer of any use to them? Take them out and help someone else live a full life! Easy.

But there was a form for my children too. Would I give permission for their organs – heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, corneas – to be donated? I admit that I baulked at answering. Indeed to this day I have not officially said yes to that question. No matter that I know if the worst were ever to happen and I were asked in a hospital corridor by a sympathetic but time-pressed surgeon in scrubs if they could take my beautiful child’s organs and give them to someone else’s beautiful child, that I would say yes.

But that’s the problem with organ donation. It’s why so many people don’t carry an organ donor card, why they don’t even discuss it with family or friends: it is a squeamish prospect that conjures up horrific images and which, ultimately, makes you face up to your own mortality and that of your loved ones. The klaxon alert in our heads goes off: avoid, avoid, avoid.

I am extremely lucky to know two people who have had to be recipients of organ donations. Lucky in the sense that I have not known more. Both were able to receive organs following successful operations.

An older friend was given a cornea transplant which has transformed her deteriorating vision. Without it she would probably be blind.

A close friend’s husband received a liver transplant because a chronic auto-immune disease was slowly destroying his own. Without it he would be dead.

They were the beneficiaries of decisions made by people who were prepared not to be squeamish and who signed up to the organ donor register.

Getting more people to carry a donor card has always been problematic for the health service. Which is why there is a Private Member’s Bill going through the Scottish Parliament at the moment, which will mean that we are all considered donors – unless we go to the effort of “opting out” – removing the need for any soul-searching or difficult conversations. We will all be donors unless we 
specifically say otherwise under the proposed new law.

Which is good news for the three people who die every day waiting for a transplant.

The Bill, backed by the British Medical Association and a host of health charities, is the work of ­Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart, and it does contain the safeguard that families of the deceased will still be given a say if they can confirm their relative had objected to organ donation while alive.

“You can’t take it with you” is the response when we consider how many material possessions we cling on to in our lives. It’s the same with our organs, so why should we cling to them in death?

I like to think about organ donation in the same way as I do the glass bottles that are collected and recycled and reused. Except this time you save a life rather than the planet.

Manson proves need for change

THE early release from prison of sex offender Robert Manson is incredibly hurtful to those he abused and makes a mockery of the justice system.

Manson, a paedophile who abused four children over three decades, was jailed in 2010 after being found guilty of six charges of serious and sustained sexual assaults. Yet while the sentences totalled 48 years, the judge ruled they should be served concurrently, so his jail term was just eight years.

If that wasn’t a slap in the face for the victims, who have to live with the trauma of the abuse they suffered, then his early release after five years certainly is.

The SNP government has said it will stop the automatic early release of prisoners jailed for four years or more.

Manson’s case proves why that has to happen.

Another tram mess in pipeline

I NEARLY cried when I saw the front-page headline on yesterday’s Evening News. Three months – THREE MONTHS – of traffic chaos on Haymarket Terrace because of Scottish Water upgrading its sewers.

This, the same street which was out of action for months when the tram line was built. That wasn’t too long ago. Why couldn’t this work have been done then? Drivers are advised to allow for longer travel times. They should ­perhaps just stay home.