Campaign goes to Westminster
10:29 07 December 2012
A campaigning Exmouth dad took his fight to save lives to the heart of Government this week, challenging MPs to change the law on organ donations.
Steve Gazzard, a town councillor, was quizzed by a panel of MPs, Lords, surgeons and NHS bosses at the House of Commons.
Last month, Steve’s daughter Sarah Wright lost her two-year battle with a chronic lung condition.
She was on the transplant waiting list but a suitable donor could not be found; there are 12 others like Sarah in East Devon also waiting for a transplant.
He says she could be alive today if the law was changed; the UK has amongst the lowest transplant rates in the western world.
He blames this on the policy of ‘opting in’ as a donor instead of people being listed at birth and then having to ‘opt out’.
Accompanied by Jacquie Spencer, the NHS team manager for Southwest organ donation team, he told Sarah’s story to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Transplantation.
Their goal is to boost donations by 50 per cent by 2013;
Over two Saturdays in The Strand, Sarah’s family signed up 110 new donors, while the town council has backed his campaign and last night (Wednesday) he asked the district council to do the same.
“The law needs to change; people are dying needlessly every year,” he told MPs.
He challenged them on the current system which allows a donor’s family to overturn a donor’s wishes.
“It should be treated like a will; only a court should be able to change their decision.
“There are 14 million donors in the UK but up to 40 per cent are overturned by the next of kin.”
He said that in Scotland professionals educated school children about becoming a donor: “When they get old enough they make up their own minds, this has seen a huge increase in people signing up.”
He told the Journal: “The chairman (Chris Williamson) said it was a very useful session, he was touched by the stories and it had given him food for thought.
“At first I was a bit sceptical, but overall I was impressed with the panels view and with how the chairman conducted it.
“I just hope that I have done my Sarah proud by telling her story.”
Jacquie Spencer said: “The most important thing is that people are talking about it.
“As a society we are really not very good about talking about death.
“Hopefully, from this, some positive actions will come out of it.”