Overwhelming gratitude for the priceless gift of organ donation

Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA

Thank you, Zoe Wood for reminding us of the real human relationships that lie behind organ transplant in your article about Liz Houghton and her son Will (‘I want to know that Will’s life mattered’, G2, 11 November). Recently in hospital I watched as freely donated blood dripped into my vein and wondered about the unknown people who had made this possible, but whom I could not thank, as one should for a gift. Then I thought perhaps their gift was thanking me for all the blood I have given in the past.

I was reminded of the wonderful book by Richard Titmuss, The Gift Relationship (1970), a fascinating study of blood transfusion systems in different countries. It concludes that the UK system of free donation is superior to those where blood can be bought and sold. This is not only because the quality of donated blood is better where there is no financial gain involved, but also, and more importantly, because of the relationship between the individual donor and the society to which blood is freely given. This is the gift relationship: a recognition of our common humanity, something almost mystical. This, like organ transplant, is a reminder that there is such a thing as society.
Mary Brown
Stroud, Gloucestershire

• As the recipient of a kidney transplant eight years ago, I know that in every similar patient I’ve met there is universal gratitude for the gift of extra life they have been granted by individuals like Liz Houghton’s remarkable son Will.

But not everyone thrown together in this unique way finds it easy to express their feelings. My letter to my own donor’s family went unanswered. But given the scale of emotions on both sides in such transplants, the lack of a response seemed understandable. I, for one, was perfectly content with the silence of the deceased’s connections, if that’s what they wanted.

But for the sake of every generous soul like Liz, and her heartbreaking loss, this new initiative to bring together people on both sides of the transplant experience is a welcome way of continuing the discussion.
Paul Sayer
Haxby, North Yorkshire

• I will not be the only person to assure Liz Houghton that the recipient of a donor organ and their family and friends are overwhelmed with gratitude to the donor and their family who made this extraordinary decision. I do not know if my son and his father ever wrote their thanks, but they have benefited from four donations and we give thanks every day. All of us carry donor cards.
Eleanor Yates

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