Organ Donation: A Matter of Death and Life

Bryan Sanger: “A grateful organ recipient”

The impending death of a loved one is never easy. The process and stages of preparation, coping, and, inevitably, grieving becomes a rite of passage. For some, that loss is also literally a life changing experience when the person who died was a registered organ donor.

The subject of organ donation is an extremely emotive one, which can put doctors and the deceased’s loved ones in a difficult position when there has been no discussion about, or clear expression of, consent.

The Welsh Assembly has taken steps to address this issue and the chronic shortage of donors. In Wales, from 1st December 2015, the default position will become ‘deemed consent’ and anyone who objects to their organs being donated in the event of their death will need to formally opt out so that their decision can be held on record.

Most people are apprehensive at the best of times when it comes to thinking about organ donation and it’s easy to understand their concerns when it involves loved ones and loss. This is why it’s so important to find out the facts and to separate truth from myth.

Here’s one way of looking at it:

Imagine that you needed an organ transplant to improve your quality of life, and a match was found in time, how grateful would you be that someone had made that difficult decision to benefit another person’s life after they’d gone?

If that’s the case, isn’t it reasonable – assuming you had no religious or philosophical objection to receiving a donated organ – that you would want to be an organ donor yourself?

Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers. However, if we are prepared to sit down and talk about it, we can make our wishes clearly understood (and documented). We may also bring some comfort to those we leave behind with the knowledge that our death and foresight has made it possible for someone else to live.

Bryan Sanger is one such person who, at the age of 70, has gone on to live a full and rewarding life after receiving an organ donated by the family of their 13 year old son and brother 4 years ago. Here’s Bryan’s response to the letter from the donor’s family.


I was very moved to receive your letter and learn about your son and brother, the beautiful person who in his passing has enabled me to lead an enjoyable and fulfilling life, something I had not be able to do for quite some time.

Being the proud father of an adult son and daughter and grandfather of four beautiful grandchildren, I cannot being to imagine the pain you must all be suffering with your sad loss of someone so young.

A few years ago I lost my wife shortly after our 40th wedding anniversary. She bravely fought her illness for many years which makes me realise how blessed I am to have received a second chance in life.

I grew up in a happy family environment having an older brother and a twin brother. My twin brother and I ran a successful plumbing business until ill health forced me into an early retirement. My health had deteriorated so much that I was no longer able to potter in my vegetable garden or drive my car.

Sport has played a very important role in my life, both as a spectator and competitor. Lawn bowls has taken a lot of my recreational time, reaching the peak by representing my club and winning a national title along with some of my fellow club members. I was also proud to be selected several times to represent my town in lawn bowls. I enjoyed playing rugby in my earlier years and am looking forward with anticipation to the ruby world cup being played in New Zealand later this year, something I would not have had a chance of doing without you.

Words cannot express my feelings of gratitude to all of you. My simple words “thank you” feel very insignificant but could not be more sincere.
I would be more than happy to meet with you all sometime so that I can convey my thanks in person.

May the blessings of health and happiness be with you always.

A grateful organ recipient

Photo and letter published by About the Funeral with kind permission from Bryan Sanger and his family


Kim Bird is the founder of the comparison and review site About the Funeral and Editor of the bereavement support and funeral planning magazine, Day by Day.

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