Friday, 9 August 2013

Fantasy, Fiction and Facts

There's been a bit of an upset with organ donation recently and the reason is an ill advised episode of Holby City shown on 30th July.

I haven't mentioned it before for several reasons. I wasn't really sure how I felt about it. I had my mind on so many other things, and off course I went away that weekend. So now that things have calmed down I decided to give my take on the programme and, hopefully, dispel some of the myths surrounding transplant.

Now let me stay from the start I love Holby, and Casualty for that matter, and one duff episode is not going to stop me watching it. However I watch it fully aware that it is not real, things do not happen as quickly or dramatically or as easily as it does in Holby. One episode comes to mind when they showed a woman, supposedly hours after her heart transplant, sitting up in bed drinking tea, holding a perfectly lucid conversation without at tube or wire or machine anywhere in sight.  It made me laugh at the ridiculousness of it but I wasn't offended. I know it's not real.

However there are people in this world who think everything they see on TV or read in the papers is God's honest truth. And this is where the problems with inaccurate drama lie. Now Holby has experts who advise on story lines, however advise is all they can do. They cannot force the writers to portray that advice accurately and indeed I believe most of the reality surrounding transplant is too boring and not dramatic enough for a prime time soap. After all don't we have documentaries to give people the truth, nothing wrong in adding a little spice to the mix. Which again is perfectly true until it starts to hurt people.


The episode showed a young women waiting for a transplant and by chance an exact match is involved in a road accident who just happens to be an organ donor. The donor's mum is desperate to carry out her daughter's wishes but can't bring herself to do it so she asks to see the recipient before making up her mind. There is resistance form the staff, quite rightly so, but eventually she is allow to meet the mother of the recipient. Then she is seen bursting into the theatre where her daughter is about to have her heart removed and says the operation must stop. The surgeon then lies by saying the operation was past the point of no return. The mum is then seen watching the operation on the recipient. Irresponsible is one word I would call this episode, I have called it many other names over the course of the week, most not printable here.

Unfortunately many have believed what they have seen and are pulling their names off the donor list. I'm sure that was not the intention of the writers or production staff but sometimes you really do have to aim your target very, very low. They assumed everyone watching takes what they see with a bit of salt, they were badly mistaken.

So that is the fantasy and fiction, what are the facts?


Fact 1. A donor and recipient are rarely in the same hospital. The reason being that most transplant hospitals are specialist hospitals which do not have accident and emergency departments. Most of their patients are referred there from other hospitals not wheeled in on a trolley covered in grit, tar and petrol.

Fact 2. Medical teams looking after the donor and the recipient are kept completely separate at all times. They are frequently from different hospitals in different counties or even countries. They are connected via a transplant coordinator who has no association with either team and is usually completely independent and part of the national transplant registry.

Fact 3. Donor families have the perfect right, at the moment anyway, to withdraw consent at anytime.

Fact 4. Donor and recipient families are kept apart and contact is usually only made via writing and then anonymously. This is usually in the form of a letter of thanks from the recipient to the donor family once they have recovered.

Fact 5. You cannot just run into an operating theatre in any hospital. Theatres, ICU's and CCU's are all guarded by password locks and usually a fearsome receptionist. Honestly people you'd have more chance of getting into Fort Knox than getting past that woman unnoticed.

Fact 6. Any surgeon who went ahead with any operation without consent is going to loose their job at best and probably will go to jail. One thing is for certain, they'd never work as a doctor again. The doctor's I know would never risk their careers in this way, they mean too much to them.

So there you have it, of course stating the facts is not going to convince everyone but if only one person reads this and changes their minds then I'll be happy.


I don't feel it is appropriate to continue my holiday report here so will leave it for another day when I don't have much to say, like that's ever going to happen.

In other news it looks as though Edinburgh zoo has a pregnant Panda. How exciting, I wonder whether it will get as much coverage as the royal baby did. It should being a much rarer birth.