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A donor’s tale
  1. Maggie Harris
  1. M Harris, stephencadney{at}

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I recently attracted the attention of friends and acquaintances by donating a kidney to the NHS, taking advantage of the change in legislation last year, which allows donations to be made anonymously. My motive for doing so can be summed up in the old rule of thumb: “Do as you would be done by”, which may sound philosophically unsophisticated but has always been useful to me and prompts me to give blood and feed the pigeons. I am an atheist and certainly not motivated by any desire to find a reward in heaven. In fact, I did it to make me feel good in both senses of the word—it’s a relief to have done something unambiguously useful at tolerable personal cost in terms of fear and pain.

The main burden gradually dawned on me and will be borne for some time to come: in order to maximise that usefulness I should exploit my donation to the full, to tell people how gratifying my experience has been, in order to keep interest in the subject alive and encourage others to consider doing the same. There might also be an increased willingness to offer the organs of dying relatives. Here is an opportunity to press the government to put more money into transplantation and to look more closely than hitherto at the successful Spanish model, which has dramatically reduced the numbers of patients dying on the transplant waiting list in Spain. To this end, some friends and I have set up a charity, More Transplants Please, which aims to have a launching event sometime in 2008 with as much publicity as can be mustered. Beyond producing a manifesto, we are uncertain how to promote anonymous donations. I have had some wild ideas. How about a bunch of donors doing a coast to …

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Maggie Harris is a secondary school teacher, with a degree in Modern Languages and a Masters in Medical Ethics. She is a member of the fundraising group for the Manchester branch of The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and enjoys Flamenco dancing, which is the hardest thing she has ever learned.