Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Time to Talk

The journey from the WI’s HQ in London to Leeds for our Annual Meeting took around 2 hours from King’s Cross. But the journey for our Public Affairs team has actually taken a lot longer…

Back on 16 September 2013, 51 ideas for a new campaign had been submitted our Public Affairs team by WI members. These ideas, called resolutions, were on all manner of topics from state pensions to FGM and the regulation of funeral directors. From that point onwards, each idea was subject to a rigorous shortlisting process and the successful ones were put to members for their votes. By the time we got to the First Direct Arena on 7 June 2014, one idea was left standing. It was up to WI members to hear the arguments one last time and decide whether the WI should throw its weight behind this campaign.

And they did: the resolution passed with a 98% majority. The newest mandate in the WI’s 99-hear history reads:

The NFWI notes that three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ transplant. We call on every member of the WI to make their wishes regarding organ donation known, and to encourage their families and friends, and members of their local communities to do likewise.

Laureen Walker from Standon and Cotes WI proposed the idea, which was then seconded by Barbara Hidson of Codsall Wood WI. Sally Johnson, Director at NHS Blood and Transplant spoke for the resolution, while Georgia Testa, Lecturer in medical ethics at Leeds University, set out points for the opposition. Their quotes will give you a flavour of the debate:

“The major barrier to getting consent from families for transplants is that they often have no idea of the wishes of their relative…Statistics show that when families know that their loved ones want to donate their consent rate is 88%. When they don’t know it is only 46%.” Laureen Walker

“Will more open discussion translate the approval rate into numbers actually on the Organ Donation Register? There will still be people who just don’t get around to it, even if there is a climate in which family and friends discuss donation more openly and frequently.” Georgia Testa

“Letting families know what you've decided makes it much easier for them to support your decision to be a donor. The WI is renowned for achieving results. This resolution is down to you.”Barbara Hidson

“Every day, some one in this country who could be a donor dies, and their relatives, in the midst of grief, shock and distress, are asked to allow their loved one's organs to be used to save the life of someone they don't know. Imagine it was your relative: what would you say? If you hadn't talked about organ donation as a family, then it's quite likely you'd say no. You might think it was the safer option. You might come to regret that decision later. It would be so much easier if you knew what your relative wanted: if they wanted to be a donor then you could take comfort from that decision and be proud of them.

“We hope everyone in the UK will be proud to donate their organs, when and if they can. But we know this won't happen without some inspirational leadership. We are asking you to provide this leadership: to talk to your families, your friends and your communities so that no family is left to guess what their loved one wanted.” Sally Johnson

Many WI members spoke of their own donation stories, sharing experiences of being recipients of kidneys and corneas, or being a member of a family who was asked about donating the organs of a loved one. Others mentioned living wills and old donation wallet cards as ways to formalise family consent and get families talking. It was a thought-provoking and emotional debate.

So what happens now?

The NFWI Public Affairs team will begin working on a campaign based on the mandate so watch this space for updates on Time to Talk about Organ Donation.

The best thing about the WI resolutions process? Once we’ve got a mandate, we’ve got it forever. So in that way, the journey for a resolution never ends.

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