Church leaders back Wall of Life organ donor initiative

By staff writers
11 Jul 2009

Church leaders and members are among those giving enthusiastic support to the new Wall of Life initiative, an interactive campaign across the UK by the NHS Blood and Transplant service.

The Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler and the new Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols are among those who have publicly backed the life-saving campaign, launched officially at the end of June 2009 and now gaining momentum through media and government advertising.

Wall of Life (http://www.walloflife.org.uk/) aims to promote awareness of and support for organ donation to boost the number of people joining the National Health Service organ donor register.

Wall of Life is based around an online mosaic created from people's photos posted on the site to show their support for organ donation.

The photos combine into an image of two-year-old Louisa McGregor-Smith, whose life was saved by a heart transplant in 2007 at just five months of age.

Around 62,000 people need to upload their photos onto the Wall to build Louisa's image.

Those joining Wall of Life can then pass details to their friends and families to download a personalised widget on their social profiles and websites, spreading the message across social networks.

Wall of Life is part of a national campaign to highlight the constant need for organs in the UK.

More than 10,000 people currently need a transplant operation, of whom 1,000 - three a day - will die before an organ becomes available, say experts.

When donor cards were introduced in the 1960s, some within Britain's churches were sceptical about them, or even opposed - concerned that organ donation somehow showed a lack of respect for the gift of life. Now the vast majority, having thought more about the medical and theological issues, hold exactly the opposite view.

However, campaigners say that reasons ranging from complacency to superstition or anxiety may dissuade people from signing up as donors and there has been public debate about whether an opt-in or opt-out system is best. Medical workers favour the latter and some civil liberties activists the former.

Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said recently: "People often find organ donation a difficult subject to raise with their family and friends and some are unsure of the stance which their religion takes on the issue. This public support from faith leaders gives them clear guidance to help their decision about organ donation."

She added: "We all have the potential to save lives by signing up to the NHS organ donor register, demonstrating our support by joining the Wall of Life and spreading the message to others."

To sign up and get more information, go to: http://www.walloflife.org.uk/

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