Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2015

How to avoid the anger of ghosts

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 16 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6783
  1. Evan Harris, joint executive director
  1. 1Hacked Off, London SE1 7SJ, UK
  1. drevanharris{at}

Adopt an opt-out system for organ donation

Woody Allen described the brain as his second favourite organ. For the thousands of patients waiting for a life saving or life transforming transplant, someone else’s organ is their favourite.

In a linked strongly worded article, albeit in the guise of a ghost of vetoed donation past, David Shaw delivers a damning criticism of one aspect of current organ donation policy and practice1—the practice of allowing next of kin or family to over-rule a donation wish of deceased potential donors.

The spirit is spitting mad that his wishes were not respected and that his wife’s were (although to her subsequent regret); he is joined in his haunting huffiness by ghosts whose demise was a consequence of his non-donation.

Every time a family says “no” when the deceased person’s wishes are either known to be pro-donation or are unknown (and polls show this group are much more likely to be in favour2) three groups of people “suffer” in the way the spectre specified. These are the people dying for want of an organ (and their grieving families), the person whose wish to donate organs was not respected, and those families who regret their veto in the years to come (perhaps whenever they see media …

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