This is my comment on how to pursue organ donation in today’s society. I have a problem with the idea that people don’t become organ donors. So why are so many people dying waiting for organs?
According to data available as recent as this morning at 9:25 AM (April 10th, 2009) there were 93,945 people on the various waiting lists for organs. Between January and August 2008 there were 10,026 donors supplying organs and tissue for 19,719 transplants. Quite frankly this is not acceptable to me and shouldn’t be to anyone.
There are several roadblocks to being a donor. One is that our desire indicated on our driver’s license isn’t always honored. It varies from state to state. In some places you can indicate that you are a donor on your driver’s license and still be required to have a living will and an organ donor card. There are national laws and there are local laws designed to discourage organ donation.
The main roadblock to universal organ donation is a 38 year old law called the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968. This ambiguous law says in part that people have the right to determine whether they will be donors prior to death. The passage causing most of the problem is “A gift of all or part of the body under section 2(a) may also be made by document other than a will. The gift becomes effective upon the death of the donor. The document, which may be a card designed to be carried on the person, must be signed by the donor, in the presence of 2 witnesses who must sign the document in his presence. If the donor cannot sign, the docu¬ment may be signed for him at his direction and in his presence, and in the presence of 2 witnesses who must sign the document in his presence. Delivery of the document of gift during the donor’s lifetime is not necessary to make the gift valid.”
This pretty much makes the Driver’s License signature null and void. I don’t know about you but I didn’t take along two witnesses to get my drivers license.
Where I am going with all this is that I believe the moral and ethical standards of organ transplantation have changed since 1968. I believe that we should err on the side of those who die awaiting organs instead of allowing them to die because not enough people are willing to jump through the hoops necessary to become bonafide donors. Let’s rethink this process. Let us pass new legislation making organ donation automatic and putting provisions in place to allow people with moral, religious or even irrational reasons for not wanting to be an organ donor to opt out. Let them bring the two witnesses to the courthouse and get their “not a donor card.” In the absence of any documentation let’s do the transplants.
Also, we should not allow family members to show up at hospitals wielding veto power over organ donation at the time of death. Emotional declarations of opposition by someone other than the donor have no place in this process.
What I am proposing is an extreme position countering the current extreme position of the government. I understand that it is the duty of our representatives in government to take these two positions and complicate them in order to satisfy various special interests. The interests in this particular argument are those of us who want to save as many lives as possible using organs and tissues that would otherwise be buried or cremated, and those who want to sacrifice lives so that those who want their organs and tissues buried and cremated aren’t offended. If that sounds like an uncompromising position on my part….it is.
One argument by the bury or burn advocates is that if organ donation was automatic, there would be a greater danger of doctors pulling the trigger early on harvesting organs. I suspect if every person was a potential donor the need to be in a hurry for a particular set of organs would be unnecessary because a lot more people die than need hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys. Plus if you don’t trust the medical profession, opt out. I think medical science if protected from nationalization will eventually have the ability to grow organs in the lab, but in the meantime, we can close the gap and get rid of the organ lottery.
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