More people donating organs to strangers

An increasing number of people are deciding to offer their organs to strangers, new figures have shown. The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) revealed it approved 104 altruistic organ donations in 2012-13, which is markedly more than the 38 approved in the previous 12-month period, BBC News reports.

This means such donations have almost tripled in the space of a year - and Chair of the HTA Diana Warwick described giving an organ as a "brave and amazing gift".

Ms Warwick stated: "To do it for someone whom you don't know is doubly so and the huge increase in people willing to do so is incredible."

According to the HTA, a rising number of people are warming to the idea of organ donation as awareness of the issue begins to improve.

Lead Nurse for Living Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant Lisa Burnapp explained people are motivated to give their organs because they want to do something genuinely good for another person.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Julianna Challenor comments:

"As the numbers of altruistic kidney donors increase, mounting publicity leads to rising public awareness, and it seems that the more that people are made aware of the possibility, more are drawn to this deeply felt and generous act. The chance to profoundly help another person who is suffering, regardless of who they are and without intrinsic reward, seems to be uniquely compelling for some.

"It is also likely that clinicians are becoming more comfortable with what was previously considered an unethical practice, and this is probably due to the advances in medical technology and organ donation that have taken place, meaning that risk to the donor is now considered to be very low. This combination of increasing publicity, and greater opportunity to act, seems to be driving the year-on-year increase.

"Perhaps the increase also reflects perceptions of an increasingly individualized society and meets a need that human beings have to relate to each other in meaningful ways. However, there is still relatively little in-depth understanding of what drives altruistic donation. Limiting our inquiry to a single cause – altruism - may mean that we lose an opportunity to think more carefully about the psychological aspects of a complex act.

"The limited research into altruistic kidney donation suggests that it is not necessarily as straightforward a psychological process as the notion of altruism alone suggests. In particular, the decision can be one that families and those closest to donors struggle to comprehend. The way that altruistic donation is currently reported and described might be thought of as creating a discourse of obligation that has ethical implications both for individuals and clinicians.

"Perhaps it offers an opportunity for us to think about the implications of advances in medical technology for individuals and society, as more and more often in the future we will be faced with previously unimaginable opportunities to have a profound influence on each other’s lives and bodies."