Stats from the NHS suggest that whilst more than 94% of us would expect to benefit from a donor organ should the need arise, only 29% of us carry an organ donor card. Similarly, only 4% of the UK population give blood – a staggeringly low proportion given the personal “cost”.
When unleaded fuel was first introduced to the UK in the late 1980’s, the takeup was very slow. This was partly owing to the engine-tuning changes which were needed, but even when new cars were compatible with unleaded, the takeup remained stubbornly slow. It was only when unleaded became significantly cheaper than the alternative, that it began to change, and unleaded sales overtook leaded and diesel. Drivers could directly feel the benefit for themselves, immediately.
We all understood then, that it was a good idea to switch to unleaded, just like we all understand now, that it’s a good idea to carry a donor card. So what are we waiting for? It seems we need to feel the effects of the gain personally before believing it, and deciding how to behave. The debate in the UK over whether or not we should have an opt-out system (rather than the current opt-in) will no doubt continue whilst we consider civil liberties, rights, information security and such. But I’m fairly sure that if you told someone who was suddenly critically in need of a donor organ, that they could only receive the organ if they themselves held a donor card, they would sign up instantly. In this case it’s easy to feel the gain personally, and the resultant behaviour is easy to predict.
Is this why we have so few placements available for students? Employers aren’t actually feeling any real pain, so they don’t do anything about it? Can we make it more painful for them unless they create places? Or, better, is there something we could do which makes them feel the benefits as soon as they create places? Doing something might be more effective than waiting and hoping for the best.
Gosh, it must be so hard for those at the NHS who encourage us to donate blood or organs – they must encounter so much apathy! I feel for them.
Footnote – as a result of this, my immediate personal action is to register with both services. Doesn’t take much thinking about really, does it?