Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I'm on the Organ Donation Register


It's surprising how one is reminded of ones mortality but today was one of those days. Respected blogger and minister Angela Shire-Jones outlines her concerns about Organ Donation. While overall it was diplomatic in tone, I believe she missed some key points.....

Firstly, I don't believe that we 'play God' when it comes to organ transplants. By utilising our bodies we ensure that each of us is able to make the most of our time on this planet. During this time though this can and do go wrong. If your car breaks, you go to the mechanic and get a new part. Why can't we do the same with humans? Thankfully we don't live in a horrendous Germany style system where body parts are removed from living individuals (without consent). Instead the majority of the items on the donor card cover 'when dead'. Therefore all we say is this – take my body and put it to use. We each have been given the gift of live therefore it is also up to us to share it.

Second, I don't believe that the world is just made up of individuals. Instead we are collectives (nations), continents and a global community. Through our interconnected networks we grow and flourish and potentially hit that gold standard of 'life in all its fullness'. Yet, just as we hope for love and support as times go well - we should also be willing to provide love and support when times are not so good. If we have a 'spare' organ then why shouldn't we donate it to someone more needy then us? Simply considering the self ultimately leads to unsustainable lifestyles modelled on nothing else but a dog eat dog world which benefits no-one and hurts everyone and everything in the process. Look around us at the economy and the environment. Two giant systems being destroyed by humanities selfishness, which have to hope for humanities selflessness to create a more just and equitable system.

Thirdly, science is one of the greatest skills that humanity can develop. Through trial, error, success and fudge, science generally advances lives. While there are some gross errors of judgement made, such as GM Crops and Nuclear Weapons, the majority of work carried out can only advance humanity. Within the context of Angela's argument was the idea that 'natural self selection' won't occur if we give transplants. I'm going to widen it slightly and say, to a lesser or greater extent every time we go to the doctor/nurse and end up under the knife, receiving treatment, we are playing God. We are admitting that our feeble frame is unable to cope with what it is receiving therefore we additional help.

This additional help isn't bad. I was born around 10 weeks early and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the dedicated staff and surgeons at the hospital. That's it. Were they playing God when they put me under the knife 3 times? Were they playing God when I received blood transfusions? Were they playing God when my disabled Twin had his legs broken and re-set to enable him greater capacity for mobility?

Should I have died and should Mark have poor gate and very limited mobility? Or should we realise that medical judgements are as much about seeing the potential and wanting the best. It's as though the Quaker principle of 'seeing that of God in everyone' is laid bare on the operating table and in the hospital as it is through a mixture of hope, science and luck that humans live when things look grim.

During my lifetime I want to continue to live out the challenge of the Good Samaritan. I don't wish to be pious and keep on walking, I want to stop – get my hands dirty and ensure all have quality of life. These ethics come to me in a heartbeat therefore it only seems right that I continue to help others, even after my heart stops beating.

Go on – sign up today -click here

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Welcome to my wonderland

Earlier this week the clocks moved.  The nights are getting darker earlier and it is a time that many find their moods changed, and life can take on a driecher outlook. Don't dispair though, sit down with a cup of cocoa and enter my wonderland.

Wonderland is a wonderful stream of programmes on BBC2.  It sits in the social documentary strand and, while no doubt cleverly edited, has little or no narration and really just lets the people on screen tell their own story.  Some are sad, some are bad, some are dotty yet all someone leave me feeling that little bit warmer inside, and a wee bit more thankful for the bizarre, eccentric and wholesome british isles.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 1 of the series 'Boy Cheerleaders' transports us to Leeds to meet boys developing their talent for dancing.  Under the watchful eye of dance worker, and - as it transpires - wannabe parental advisor and general surrogate father/male role model, this rag-tag group of boys defy local sterotypes to train as cheerleaders and enter a national competition.
Through the eyes of various members of the group we find out how tough life at home and school is going, how a lack of male role models was causing confusion and how (regardless of background) all boys ever want to do on school trips is stay up very very late.  

This one really goes into its own with the un-spoken sections.  I 
spent most of my pre-university years envolved in community drama.  Finding out through this the incredible transformation that can occur and, as many shots within the programme testify, it's not always what is said but the looks on participants faces as they are the only male competitors in a national competition yet the strut out to bust-a-move and potentially raise the roof...

(EDIT - If you want to find out more about them go to their BEBO page - DAZL Dimonds)



Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 2 of the series 'High Society Brides' somersaults us into the world of, according to it's editor, a more 'sophisticated version of page 3'.  Page 3 is a chance for The Sun to display a scantily clad women in little or no clothes, often spouting a 'news in brief(s)' which bears an uncanny resemblance to Murdoch's veiew.  This programme - well it follows the featured women from 'country life' magazine who have a high quality portrait taken and are 'announced' as either single or engaged to someone in high society.

Once the height of high society - this was a flick through the pages and profiles of the women featured in CL to find out what their life was up-to and what happened to the relationships they featured.   If the last programme was about boys defying stereotypes, this one was about living it up - within the context of today's societal norms.  While two participants had quiet dated views (one being quiet clear that a women's place is in the home, but a man doesn't only have to commit to her) the rest lived relatively full lives and laughed off the fact that cousins and others would inherit their fathers wealth, leaving them with nothing, all because of the inherent sexism of the aristocracy.  While all were strong characters, a lasting impression was left on me of the loneliness of high society.  Many of those profiles appeared to have it all, yet someone still be very lonely.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 3 continued with the challenging profiles with the delightfully named 'Mad Cats and Englishwomen'.  Starting with startling statistics, including the fact that there are 1 cat of every 6 people who live in London (and half of those cats are homeless) it moved on to enable the experiences to tell the story of why a small group of women work hard to deliver a quality of life to cats who are lost, abandoned or neglected.

This was a challenging programme because the core participant in the programme couldn't talk. Instead we saw women take some clear decisions, based upon surroundings, and consider if the cats were safe or happy in their situation.  While the first programme made me consider about the need to lobby and ensure arts funding isn't cut, this one left a much deeper situation.  There is one distressing situation where a women goes to a mans house to find a situation more reminiscent of John Peel's documentary 'A life of grime'.  While this show focussed upon the re-homing of cats, I finished it realising and thinking that animals play a key part in anyones mental health.  People struggling to cope with an animal are as much in need of social support alongside any need they identify to get rid of the animal.

If this taster of wonderland has wet your appetite then don't worry - watch the next episode each Wednesday, BBC2,9pm....

Take Care Y'All

John